Tribes taking over management of most of Sioux San budget

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Tribal leaders are taking over control of management of Sioux San Hospital in a move that has caused controversy in Rapid City's Native American community.

Two tribes have entered into a so called 638 contract to take over management of most of Sioux San Hospital's $28 million annual budget.

The Great Plains Tribal Chairmen's Health Board have inked a contract to take over management of the Sioux San Service Unit from the Indian Health Service under a process know as 638 contract. The changeover is scheduled for July 21.

The news was delivered at a community meeting Thursday where the health board presented its plan.

"The bottom line is that we realize that if we wait for Congress to increase funding at the level of need we'll be waiting another 50 years," said health board CEO Jerilyn Church. "Our best chance at getting the level of funding that we need to meet the needs of our community is through a 638 contract."

Sioux San primarily serves urban members of the Oglala, Rosebud and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes. Rosebud pulled out of the plan to take over so the health board will only take over 80 percent of the Sioux San Budget and IHS will retain a presence. Rosebud tribal members will continue to be served at the hospital.

The coming change has been controversial with Rapid City Indians concerned that they were not properly consulted.

"I think it's so important that the Urban Indian community who was solely responsible for the urban Indian health care clinic in Rapid City be consulted, be a part of the decision making," Robert Cook said in January.

Health board advisers concede things could have gone better.

"I have no problem saying that It would have helped immensely with an early start on community outreach and education, getting buy in, understanding," said health board Advisory Committee Member Randy Ross.

And the controversy didn't end with the new contract. The health board and its CEO face a lawsuit in state court seeking an immediate termination of negotiations over Sioux San. A hearing date has been set for next Friday.