This article originally appeared in The Daily Democrat on March 23, 2021

Construction Underway at New Northern Valley Indian Health Clinic in Woodland

While the rain poured outside, a handful of Northern Valley Indian Health employees donned hard hats and safety vests to tour the site of the organization’s newest clinic in Woodland.

The clinic is bringing new life to the former Burlington Coat Factory portion of the County Fair Mall, which is on the northeast side of the mall on Gibson Road.

The $3.7 million, 20,000-square-foot facility being built by Slater & Son will offer a variety of health services to the community. This includes both medical and behavioral health services, providers of which will be able to refer patients to one side or the other for treatment, according to Inder Wadhwa, CEO of Northern Valley Indian Health.

Wadhwa was among last week’s tour participants, walking along the mapped-out hallways and would-be exam rooms. He noted the separate entrances for behavioral health and medical services to ensure privacy.

Mark Johnson, senior project manager with Vanir Construction, explained that the project broke ground last October and is about 50% complete.

One of the challenges Johnson and his crew have faced is the coronavirus pandemic. Not only has it affected health and safety practices — Johnson noted that if someone in a group develops symptoms, the whole group has to self-quarantine — but it affected the supply chain as well.

Crews had to jump ahead on some phases of construction due to delays in the shipping of materials. This put construction behind a few months and has had “the greatest impact” on construction, according to Johnson.

In terms of the project itself, Johnson explained that while the old Burlington would not hold up to today’s standards for retail construction, it is “perfect for a clinic.” It is also cost-effective as “the walls are here, the roof is here, the connections are here.”

In fact, retail conversions like the Woodland clinic are very common, Johnson added. A lot of old malls are being turned into something new, using this approach to recycle what is already there.

The new location on Gibson Road will be the second Northern Valley Indian Health clinic located in Woodland. The West Court Street clinic will continue to provide dental services with plans to expand in the future.

Wadhwa reported the existing West Court Street clinic, which was established in 2012, is around 16,000 square feet in size and has two medical providers, five dental providers and four providers of behavioral health services.

The new healthcare clinic will serve existing patients while also accepting new patients.

At 20,000 square feet, the new clinic will allow for expanded services by offering 14 medical exam rooms, and an isolation room for patients with infectious diseases, a telehealth room, about seven behavioral health offices and administrative officers.

While the clinic will start at 20,000 square feet, the total building size is about 80,000 square feet, Wadhwa noted. The remaining space will be open for future expansion of the clinic.

This was evident during the tour when participants “exited” the main clinic into the excess indoor space. This area was a reminder of the building’s past as Burlington.

Asked why they wanted extra space, Wadhwa said Northern Valley Indian Health has outgrown clinics in the past. They wanted to get ahead of it this time by having room to grow.

In terms of timeline, Johnson indicated they are on track for a June opening.

Since 1971, Northern Valley Indian Health has grown steadily to meet the growing needs of the communities that it serves. Last year, Northern Valley provided 129,613 patient visits at its healthcare clinics in Woodland, Chico, Red Bluff and Willows.

Northern Valley Indian Health consists of a consortium of tribes: the Mechoopda Indian Tribe of Chico Rancheria, the Grindstone Indian Rancheria of Wintun-Wailaki Indians of California, the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation of California and Kletsel Dehe Tribe of California.

The purpose of Northern Valley Indian Health was to establish a private, nonprofit tribal corporation seeking to reestablish health services for Native Americans in California. Today, the health centers continue to focus agency efforts on establishing and maintaining an effective and efficient healthcare system for California natives and the general public through medical, dental and pediatric services.