NESPELEM - In a presentation of his program’s needs to the Colville Business Council’s Health and Human Service’s Committee, Colville Tribal Area Agency on Aging’s Larry Robinette noted the program’s greatest current priority is in getting a meal site in the Omak district.

“The building we are occupying right now, the old bingo-casino has a multitude of issues,” said Robinette. “An insurance adjuster was here recently and we should hear from them this week what that means as far as that goes. We had our HVAC system go out. We had water in the building from pipes and our sprinkler system in there needs to be looked at and certified. The carpet needs to be repaired. There are electric issues … We are currently utilizing the longhouse. We went to the Eagle’s Nest in July and June, but someone set fire to the Eagle’s Nest so that displaced us. We really have no place for the Omak Senior Center.”

Robinette further noted the Inchelium Senior Meal Site also needs repairs, stating, “I don’t think it was built for this kind of utilization for this period of time. I believe that it has been the senior center for close to 20 years. So we need an update there.”

According to Robinette, the tribal AAOA serves approximately 300 elders across the reservation daily. Through several months, between March and July, AAOA served over 500 elders daily while working with the Colville Tribal Emergency Operations Center in an effort to protect the reservation’s most vulnerable populations from COVID-19.

Robinette listed additional needs as in-home care installation of in-home aids, equipment needs (such as air cleaners and fans) and increased transportation needs. He also noted a need across the reservation for personal alerts, such as those elders can use to signal emergency responders, but noted the limited use of those alerts with poor cellular service on many parts of the Colville Reservation.

CBC member Andy Joseph Jr. requested more information regarding how lack of broadband access across the reservation impacts elders.

“I’m on the American Indian Health Commission and they have been asking about broadband access and statistical data,” said Joseph. “What I need to forward on to them, so that we could work on lobbying efforts for broadband, is our elders’ needs as stated. I think it was the Mescalero Apache, they took over their phone systems and the internet on the reservation and built on. All their elders have access to internet and they all have personal alerts. They can push a button and call, their GPS shows where they are. I think it is really important that we have all that data so we can include them. I know we are really pushing for students right now, but our elders need broadband connectivity as well.”

Robinette noted on the reservation less than 50 percent of the elders served by his program have good working cellular service or broadband access at their homes.

Robinette also noted many elders had expressed a desire to get back to senior centers “to catch up with everyone else and to just be outside of their own home, where they’ve been since early March [due to the COVID-19 pandemic].”

In a longterm need, Robinette further pointed out a need for an elder community or assisted living facility on the Colville Reservation.

CBC member Jack Ferguson called for age analysis information from the Colville Tribal Enrollment Program and Robinette stated over the next 10 years the number of elders on the reservation is expected to double.

CBC member Norma Sanchez further noted LIHEAP, which runs the elder wood program, would be on the next committee agenda.

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