Alaska tribal entities to receive federal land transfers for health care facilities

Alaska tribal entities to receive federal land transfers for health care facilities

The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium in Anchorage, Alaska on Dec. 30, 2021. (Lyndsey Brollini/KTOO)

The Tanana Tribal Council and two Alaska Native health consortia will receive land transfers from the federal government.

President Biden signed a bill in December that gives Indian Health Service (IHS) land to the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) in Sitka, the Tanana Tribal Council in Tanana and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) in Anchorage.

SEARHC marketing director Lyndsey Schaefer said the transfer gives them the two remaining federally-owned properties within the Sitka health campus. It’s been a lingering step in the consortium’s hospital expansion plan.

“The land transfer allows SEARHC to self-determine the best uses of the properties, and once construction is complete, it will enable the properties to be repurposed to complement the new Mt. Edgecumbe Medical Center,” Schaefer wrote in an email.

In Tanana, the transfer gives a former IHS hospital site to the Tanana Tribal Council. In 2016, Council Secretary Dorothy Jordan said the transfer would help the tribe apply for grants to fund substance abuse and suicide prevention efforts.

In Anchorage, ANTHC already has a warehouse on the land they’ll receive from IHS. They use that warehouse to prepare for construction projects throughout Alaska, including water treatment improvements.

Jim Roberts, ANTHC’s interim Vice President of Intergovernmental Affairs, said owning the land will make it easier to build a new, larger warehouse.

“Every time we have to do improvements, we’re subject to rigorous federal oversight,” Roberts said. “If the land is transferred to us, we loosen up some of those requirements and we have more flexibility. It allows us to construct the actual building in a way that meets our needs.”

It can also give health consortia – and the state – more financial flexibility. In 2014, ANTHC received a land transfer that allowed them to build patient housing. Patients had previously been funded for hotel stays through Medicaid.

“Once we internalized that to ANTHC, we were able to work with the state to help them save state general fund dollars,” Roberts said.

Rep. Don Young first introduced a bill authorizing the transfers in January 2021. The act signed last month was named after him.

“I think this is a legacy that can be attributed to him,” Roberts said.

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