It was back in 2000 when the Southern Piegan Diabetes Program added a gymnasium onto its facility in downtown Browning, and many people still think the same program operates there. But in 2016 it changed into the Southern Piegan Health Center (SPHC), which transformed it into a clinic, with the gym providing therapy for its patients.
“It’s a small family clinic,” said Dr. Clark Fultz, one of two doctors on-site. ”We have four providers – two doctors and two nurse practitioners.” Dr. Fultz shares medical responsibilities with Dr. Ken Crawford, Medical Director at SPHC.
It is a tribally owned clinic, separate from the Indian Health Service, which gives it more flexibility in offering services. “We want to let people know that there’s a clinic here, a complete family clinic. They can come here and be seen, and unlike IHS we can see anybody,” Dr. Fultz said.
The clinic at Southern Piegan was the first to be introduced to Blackfeet Country, and now there are two more, one near Vina Chattin School and the other in Heart Butte.
“One of the first prescriptions we recommend is lifestyle change,” Dr. Fultz said. “That’s diet and exercise. It means a change in diet and exercise, but people have to want to change.”
“The doctors refer clients to us, and we take them to the gym to start an exercise program with nationally certified fitness training,” said James Evans, director of the gymnasium. “We do exercise, fitness and elder aerobics in the community, and we work closely with the school district through the Blackfeet Diabetes Prevention Program. Now we got a new grant for more classes and certified lifestyle trainers.”
“Most of the people we see are required to get employment,” said Dr. Crawford, “something productive in their lives, through close follow up. They tell us, ‘I got a job today’ so we know.”
Dr. Crawford said the program has landed a suicide/mental health grant to develop a mental health department, as well as hiring a pair of clinical psychologists.
Besides the clinic and gym, SPHC does outreach to the community with several events throughout the year.
With the New Year upon us, folks are getting ready for the Rez Meltdown 2020. Signup began on Jan. 15 for the contest, and folks can sign up during regular gym hours. There is a $20 buy-in, and folks will pay $1 for every pound gained. Men and women compete in separate categories, with the winner taking all in each category. There is a $5 late fee for missed weigh-ins, and the final weigh-in day will be April 8 before 4 p.m. The winners will be announced at 4:30, and they will be determined according to the fat pounds lost.
Plans are also in the works to create a Winter Triathlon.
Every day at SPHC is busy, but folks can come to the gym anytime to exercise. The fee schedule for gym time runs $50 for three months, or $25 for one month, $10 for a week or $5 per day. “Anybody can utilize it, and all the money goes back to the gym,” Evans noted. The gym is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays.
The clinic is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.