Grass Valley's Chapa-De Indian Health Clinic continues to grow at a rate that exceeds what federal officials initially planned to serve, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Through August, the most recent month for which statistics are available, 1,623 new patients used the $17.5 million facility on East Main Street in Grass Valley.
More are coming, too, Chapa-De representatives said during a visit by USDA officials from Washington, D.C., and California housing representatives. The USDA provided $5.4 million in direct funding for the building. Chapa-De provided $5 million, and the nonprofit secured a $7.1 million loan from Oregon-based Umpqua Bank.
In addition, 493 people are on a waiting list to use Chapa-De's services in Grass Valley alone, according to the nonprofit's records.
Chapa-De representatives said Monday they had to overcome many stereotypes and fears during the planning and building process. Some residents thought the property was going to be a casino. Others wondered whether only Native Americans could use the clinic.
Since November, when it opened, the nonprofit clinic has been bustling.
"As word of mouth happens from the patients to their friends, they understand that we serve more than Native clients," said Pam Padilla, administrative services director for Chapa-De Indian Health Program Inc., which began in Auburn in 1976.
The facility serves as a crucial option for those who receive public health insurance, Padilla said. About 40 percent of the clinic's clients are on some form of public health insurance.
"We basically work to serve the underserved," said Chapa-De CEO Carol Ervin.
The clinic provides a range of medical services, including dentistry, women's health, podiatry, optometry, mental health, chiropractic and acupuncture. The clinic also offers psychiatric services and massage therapy.
"They can get a lot of health care here that keeps them out of the hospital," Padilla said.
The clinic's design pays homage to Native traditions, as nearly every room a patient sees, including waiting rooms, is round, to keep the energy continually flowing. The entrance doors face east, toward the rising sun.
The design of the building was important for the healing process, too, said Ervin, a Humboldt County native and member of the Trinidad Rancheria, a federally recognized tribe north of Eureka.
Quality health care in a comforting environment wasn't always possible for Ervin, who said she grew up largely a product of a public health care system that was slow and made her feel different from the rest of the population.
"It used to be so shabby," Ervin said. "That vision stayed in my mind as we built this. People need to know that they're part of the overall operation and not that they're outsiders.
"I'd like people to feel like they can get well the moment they walk in the door," said Ervin, who has been associated with Chapa-De for 30 years.
When the building opened for business just before Thanksgiving 2008, Padilla said, "they were ready to sign up."
Chapa-De's facilities include a campus in Auburn, one in Woodland, and a dental clinic in the Presley Building on East Main Street in Grass Valley.
Patients come from as far as Marysville and Reno.
The Grass Valley facility is looking to align with more medical insurance providers to serve more clients, and is hiring a family practice physician next month to meet more demand.
"It's a huge success, and I think people are surprised they can get nearly all of their health care needs taken care of here," Ervin said.