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Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Center’s new federal designation to increase access to care

There's a sign in the forefront that reads, "Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Center. 1715 Kuenzli" in front of a parking lot and large building.
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio

The Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Center is now a Tribal Federally Qualified Health Center. It is the first tribal clinic in Nevada to receive the designation.

The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony’s tribal health center cares for about 60,000 American Indian and Alaska Native patients of all ages. It provides a wide range of services, including primary, behavioral, and oral care, a pharmacy, and non-emergency medical transportation.

Before the designation, reimbursement from the state and federal governments only covered services offered at the clinic. Now, the designation allows for reimbursement for outside referrals. Angie Wilson, the Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Center director, said it’s a win-win for patients and providers.

“We run into situations where folks will cap how many Medicaid patients they’ll take a month because they just can’t afford it, the loss of revenue for their clinics to sustain their businesses,” Wilson said. “We don’t want to have to run into that. We want to be able to negotiate with them at higher rates.”

Wilson is in the initial stages of reaching out to collaborate with other health care providers. She said the designation will increase patients’ access to specialty care.

“Some of the most common referrals we do are physical therapy. It really helps getting our folks into specialty care here in the local area that’s really limited. Dermatology, that’s a great example,” Wilson said. “It also helps us to get folks in quicker to things like women’s health care or OB-GYN services.”

Wilson has more goals. She wants to expand pharmacy reimbursements and see a bill introduced during the next state legislative session to create a permanent seat for a tribal representative on the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange board of directors.

Lucia Starbuck is an award-winning political journalist and the host of KUNR’s monthly show Purple Politics Nevada. She is passionate about reporting during election season, attending community events, and talking to people about the issues that matter most to them.
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