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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Native Project marks 30 years of health and behavioral services in Spokane

The Native Project celebrated its 30th anniversary during the steady drenching rain that fell in Spokane Friday, but that didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits. What couldn’t be put under tents moved indoors, and the party went on.

Native Project CEO Toni Lodge said the organization usually doesn’t have a problem with the weather during its anniversary celebrations.

“It’s never rained, not once,” she said.

The Native Project is on West Maxwell Avenue in the West Central Neighborhood. It offers integrated medical and behavioral health care as well as a dental clinic and a pharmacy. Services are available to everyone, not just Native Americans.

Many of their clients are homeless, so the clinic also offers showers and a laundry room.

The organization is funded by Indian Health Services and the Health Resources and Services Administration. Native Project might be West Central’s best kept secret, Lodge said. Not many people realize they offer such a wide range of care, including substance abuse treatment.

“We’re a very unique clinic,” Lodge said. “Although we are really experts at Indian health care services, we provide care to everyone.”

Friday’s celebration included a raffle fundraiser, a photo booth, face painting, food from Longhorn Barbecue and information booths featuring local health care providers and social service agencies. Community members could sign up for tours of the building.

“We had a bouncy house but the decision was made that it was too dangerous to bounce in the rain,” Lodge said.

Connie Peterson-Shaver was one of several Native American crafters and artists who participated in the Indian Market, which was also moved inside the building. She was selling loose beads used for decorations, dried sage bundles and a variety of earrings. She said she used to do a lot of bead work but now specializes in earrings made from bullets.

“I cut them off,” she said. “I started experimenting with it.”

Peterson-Shaver, a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, said she used to travel the country full time selling her creations but now sticks a little closer to home. “Every week I go to our tribal government center in Nespelem,” she said.

The hit of the anniversary celebration was the dancing, as several dancers demonstrated the different styles of dance, including women’s traditional dancing, jingle dress dancing and fancy dancing. It was standing room only in the Great Room during the demonstrations.

The Native Project has seen tremendous growth over the years, Lodge said. “We started with $100,” she said. “Last year we had a budget of $10 million.”

They’ve taken every opportunity to maximize space in their building and a new addition was built in 2007. Staff members sit at desks packed several to a room instead of in cubicles or private offices. “It takes up less real estate and leaves more room for patients,” she said.

They’ve grown so much that there have been ongoing discussions about buying or building a larger facility, Lodge said. “We are out of room here,” she said. “What we need is ethnic minority behavioral health in Spokane County. It’s one of the ways we can reduce health disparities.”

Right now the clinic offers behavioral health care only for children and adolescents. “We’re not able to serve adults and that’s what we want to do,” she said.

Options for a new site are limited in West Central. “It’s an old, established neighborhood, and there’s not a lot of open space,” she said.

Lodge said it’s unlikely they will be able to find a new location in West Central, but they want to stay as close to the neighborhood as possible.

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