Rep. O'Halleran visits Redtail Hawk and Gila Crossing Community School
September 7, 2018
Aaron J. Tohtsoni
Gila River Indian News
U.S. Rep. Tim O’Halleran visited the Gila River Indian Community on Aug. 23, making two stops at the new Hau’pal Redtail Hawk Health Center and then at Gila Crossing Community School.
After meeting Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis and Community Councilmembers Barney Enos Jr. and Carol Schurz, O’Halleran toured the new healthcare facility with Gila River Health Care’s Scott Gemberling, CEO; Derrick Glum, CFO and Robert Pablo, Director of Customer Service.
According to Gov. Lewis, the visit was special because O’Halleran was instrumental helping the Community receive $73 million in funding for the new health facility, from Indian Health Services, which sits on the edge of the Community adjacent to the City of Chandler in District 4.
“They are a product of funding,” said O’Halleran of IHS and Bureau of Indian Affairs. “Congress wants to have them do their mission statement, there is a lot of hardworking people as you know involved. It’s a top-down process and we have to start accepting our responsibility at a much higher level and understanding the needs of people, much more so than just raw numbers on a piece of paper.”
The new facility has primary care, behavior health services, physical therapy, women’s health, podiatry, optometry, dental, pharmacy and many more.
During his tour, O’Halleran saw the physical therapy room, primary care patient rooms, the pharmacy and saw a lot of the little details that make the hospital unique and top of the line. He also had a chance to interact with employees.
Following the tour at the health center, O’Halleran and tribal leadership headed to Gila Crossing Community School in District 6 for a tour of the school campus.
While visiting the school, he saw the library, music room, culture and language class and the agriculture garden. While in the cultural class, a kindergartener taught O’Halleran how to say ‘hello’ in O’otham.
He also saw where the students go for physical education, if the weather permits them to be outside, as well as learned how old some of the buildings are. Most of GCCS is modular buildings but some buildings were built as far back as 1936 and some have been deemed condemned.
While on the tour, members of the school administration explained to O’Halleran the layout of the new school and how much of a relief it will be to have much more room, especially for the music class which recently had a baby grand piano donated. There will also be areas focused on science, technology, engineering, agriculture and mathematics.
The new school to be built in Komatke is going to be the first of its kind using a model in which the Community pays for the construction of the school and then leases the use of the facility to the Bureau of Indian Education.
U.S. Congress appropriates fund for agencies like the Bureau of Indian Education and Bureau of Indian Affairs. Capital funds that congress appropriates for different agencies go into building schools or in the case of the Community, it would be for the lease payments.
The amount of lease payments and the length of the lease are still being negotiated.
Seeing the condition of the current Gila Crossing School will allow O’Halleran to report to congress and advocate for funding on behalf of the Community for the innovative way of building the new school.
“Congress has not voted (on the Appropriations bill) yet,” said Gov. Lewis. “It still needs to go to a final vote before congress ends. He needed to see first-hand so that he could advocate that much more vociferously, more effectively to advocate for the Gila River Indian Community, specifically, for the Gila Crossing school.”