It all started when a friendship was formed between myself, Benton Kinney, and Dr. Thomas Andrews over 16 years ago. When I first met Dr. Andrews he had just began work in a Native American clinic working part time. I worked alongside him at this clinic for several years providing psychiatric care to nursing homes, outpatient clinics, and answering hospital calls. Often as life happens we ended up on a different path of service and reconnected later in life.
I have always had a special place in my heart for the Native American people as my grandmother was full Native American. Due to the racial pressures in this country she did not register, therefore her lineage is unable to register as well. I spent my adolescence on the Makah Reservation (in Washington) where my friends and I would hunt, fish, or just explore the land. I have many fond memories of this time, some of my favorites were the many friendships I made along the way. I have always felt a kinship with the Native American culture and respect for their customs which ultimately led to my passion for helping the community.
Some years after I left the practice, where Dr. Andrews and I had provided service we found our paths were about to cross once more. I recognized a need for psychiatry in the Red Bluff, CA area when I noticed that many patients would make the 30-minute drive to be seen in Redding. I prayed for some time and was able to coordinate with Dr. Andrews and a friend to open a part time clinic in Red Bluff, CA. After many fliers being sent out and marketing with other various clinics, I received a call from Dr. Margaret Alspaugh at the Greenville Rancheria. When I spoke with her she was also aware of the desperate psychiatry needs as they worked with both Native American tribes and Non-Native American’s. Dr. Andrew’s and I recognized that even in a small way our specialty service might be able to bridge the relationship between Native American clinics and those around them.
Telemedicine is a service we adopted in our Native clinics and developed into a system that works rather proficient. We began doing this type of service with the idea of being available to serve counties who were in need of help for their patients. We had found this type of service worked with other county’s needs as well and we were able to expand and get help to those who were in need. We started providing and grew quickly from there.
We have always been open to looking for new ways to help in the Native American population. An opportunity for us to provide services came along when a tribe suffered a tragic crisis. There were several people within the Tribal Council that were murdered. This tribe in particular was a rather tight knit group out of Modoc county made up of around 39 people. They were all very close and many were family members as well. When I had heard about the crisis I called the director immediately and was able to drive 3 ½ hours, which was two days after the event had taken place, and offer my services and work with the survivors. We made a couple of subsequent trips to Modoc county with a team including, our psychologist on staff, a medical assistant, and myself. We continued to provide services for this small community for several months.
One of the niche area’s we specialize in is the rural communities. We have lived in these communities, know the lifestyle, and know how to rally resources when they do not typically exist. We offer a flexibility that other organizations are unwilling to give, or simply cannot. We have always been patient focused and this often costs us in various way. For example, we provided psychiatry services to an FQHC site, and we were certain the need was there., but due to its remote location we could not get people to show up or keep their appointments. We continued to send providers there for over a year, because we felt that the patients did not have anywhere to turn. With our faith we have tried to maintain a servant’s heart. We have other clinics with the same issues but we truly care about our patients and their wellbeing and continue to provide services. Who else will be their advocate and give them a voice while everyone else seems to abandon them? We know how to provide care for these patients and are willing to listen and have the patience to be able to help them.
After being open for 3 years we felt it was time to hire someone that could take over operations. I was practicing in the clinics and managing all of the day to day operations. At that time, we had over 5,000 patients we were caring for. I wanted to be able to focus more on the people I was caring for and that is where John Serle came into the picture. Dr. Andrews and I had known him for some time and knew him to be very hard working and successful in various aspects of his life. He had been helping the indigent population in various clinic partnerships, and with the advent of Affordable Healthcare Act, he developed another partnership with a psychiatry specific insurer. With his hard work we have been able to open two of our own clinics and serve a population that we could not have before.
Now that we have over 40 employees, provide services to over 10 different Native American clinics, provide Telemedicine services 5 days a week to different county entities, and have two private clinics, we are able to help Tribes during their crisis, grief and loss. We now serve upward of 8,000 patients and continue to hear Native and non-Native patients describe how thankful they are that a tribe has brought in psychiatry services to their community. We are grateful for the relationships that have formed to be able to help provide necessary services to those in need.
Chief Financial Officer/Secretary