The Soboba Health Clinic operated by Riverside-San Bernardino County Indian Health Inc. has been a mainstay for the Native American population for many years. More than 15 years ago, talks began about expanding the clinic to better serve the community. When the land that currently houses the Soboba Fire Department was put into trust in 2018, the timing seemed right to plan on building a bigger and better clinic.
The current clinic, less than a mile from the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians reservation, is 18,400 square feet. The new clinic and a commodities warehouse will be a combined 53,000 square feet.
“RSBCIHI has a land-lease agreement with the Soboba Tribe for eight acres for an initial agreement of 25 years with an option for another 25 years,” explained Bill Thomsen, Chief Operations Officer for Riverside-San Bernardino County Indian Health, Inc. “The BIA lease agreement process started in November 2018 and was approved by the BIA in October 2020.”
A groundbreaking ceremony was held on Nov. 20. It was an intimate event with only a handful of invited guests due to COVID-19 precautions. Wayne Nelson gave a blessing and was presented with a blanket in appreciation. Soboba Tribal Council representatives received a gift basket from RSBCIHI board delegates in attendance.
“We will plan something bigger when construction is completed; we expect that to be sometime in the spring of 2022,” Soboba Tribal Council Chairman Isaiah Vivanco said. “This was a vision of previous councils and when we got the land into trust back in 2015 we knew it would be great to have a bigger facility that could offer more services.”
Soboba Tribal Council Vice Chairwoman Geneva Mojado has been employed as a health educator with RSBCIHI’s grant-funded Native Challenge program for more than five years but has been a patient at the clinic since she was born.
“The program will have its own office at the new clinic, and I was happy to hear they will have a cultural/healthy living garden at the new site as well as other new clinic sites,” she said. “My mother has been employed with IHS for more than 25 years as a pharmacy technician and is excited to be in the new building.”
Mojado said that throughout her mother’s career, this will be the third clinic that Soboba has operated that she has worked at. She said she is also happy to see that the commodities department will have a final place to call home in a brand-new air-conditioned building.
RSBCIHI Board Delegate Julia Parcero, who was recently re-elected to another four-year term, said it took a lot of planning from the full board to get this project moving and to stay on track. She said delegates met with Soboba Tribal Administration and Tribal Council to go over all the plans.
“I’m very proud and excited to be a part of the whole process,” she said.
Construction for the new commodities warehouse and clinic began with grade staking on Nov. 23 and heavy equipment was brought on site Nov. 30. Thomsen said while the warehouse and clinic construction will be simultaneous, the warehouse should be completed first and within a year. The current commodities warehouse is a leased building in Beaumont.
“The entire cost of this roughly $19 million project is being financed by RSBCIHI from funds generated through many years of third-party billing and will be owned outright by RSBCIHI, who own the current clinic building,” Thomsen said.
The new clinic will have 12 medical exam rooms, 10 dental operatories, an expanded eye care center with three exam rooms, a diabetes fitness center for patients and staff, additional staff offices for patient care and larger group room accommodations. It will also have a larger WIC/Nutrition office area and training/cooking room, a larger laboratory for patient care testing, a larger pharmacy work area and an expanded x-ray suite for patient comfort.
“Most Tribal Members I have talked with look forward to having the new clinic in an area that will also be the site of our future government center. We got a round of applause when we made the announcement at the last General Membership meeting,” Vivanco said. “This will provide Tribal Members with access to healthcare while getting other needs taken care of close to home.”
Photos Courtesy of Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians