The NATIVE Project plans to expand with COVID-19 testing building

SPOKANE, Wash. — Native Americans across the country are getting hit hard by COVID-19. They’re more likely than White people to get the disease and to have a serious case. In Spokane, The NATIVE Project is hoping to bring down those numbers.

They provide care to about 5,700 people. Everything from medical to mental health. Tribal citizens make up 64% of that. Native Americans are more likely to have serious COVID-19 complications. The Native Project says culture plays a role.

“One of the challenges is to stay separate of each other when we’re culturally not — we’ve not done that,” said Dylan Dressler, clinic director for The NATIVE Project. “I feel like we were in denial for a minute and didn’t want to wear masks and we still wanted to be with grandma and grandpa.”

To help the Native American population, Dressler said they’ve done a big online push to encourage face masks and social distancing.

“We’ve done a lot of creative activities and events for our patients to attend to stay healthy and happy and check in with people,” she explained.

At their clinic, they’re working on access to care and safety.

“We’ve put air scrubbers in,” Dressler said. “We’ve put air filters and fans in every room while all of the patients are going through our building.”

They also plan on retrofitting some rooms and spaces. Two will soon be hyperbaric rooms, or isolations rooms.

One of the biggest projects will be right next door to the clinic. They purchased a lot before the pandemic. The plan is to build a COVID-19 testing site for patients. They’ll also use it to give out a possible vaccine.

“We’re trying to keep the chronic and acute diseases away from the well child and the well cared prevention health services,” Dressler explained.

This is expected to be done in six to nine months. These changes were made possible thanks to a federal grant. However, Gressler said they’ll need supplemental funding to finish the projects.

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