North Segment Update

By Brian Heskin,

MHA Times Reporter

Councilwoman Monica Mayer M.D. hosted a community update for North Segment residents at the Northern Lights Wellness Center in New Town April 20. This was the first public event in over two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The catered event started serving food at 5:30 p.m. and the presentation by Councilwoman Mayer began shortly after. Immediately prior to the presentation however, Mayer introduced her friend Jay Standish who announced his candidacy for Mayer of New Town. Standish is a former Air Marshall and has served on the City Council. He describes himself as pro-law enforcement and promises to help end the problems that are plaguing the homes within the community. 

Councilwoman Mayer also added that if Standish was elected, he would be the first Native American Mayer ever elected to the city of New Town. 

The Councilwoman presented the audience with an array of information pertaining to North Segment and gave several updates on future projects that residents can expect to see in the near future. 

 left to right on stage with Councilwoman Mayer – Michelle Fox, Angie Wilson, Mike Charnholm, Mike Jangula, and Shane Crecelius

The biggest project announced by Councilwoman Mayer was the news of a new state of the art community center that will be built for North Segment residents in the open 30-acre space near Red Hawk Estates. “This will be an entire youth center. Where you can get tutors for math, reading, and culture,” Councilwoman Mayer said. She not only wants a strong academic setting, but she also stated the importance of utilizing it as a fitness center for children 18 and younger.

The community center will also have a pool, theater, meal site for elders, and a greenhouse. “We’re going to have a greenhouse so we can grow our own beans, corn, and squash; and pick it all year round so we can serve it to our elders,” Councilwoman Mayer said. She also informed the audience that this will be a net zero facility. “What does net zero mean? It means we’re not going to have to pay Mountrail Williams Electric Company. We pay $8,000 a month just to pay the light bill here, we’re not going to have to do that,” Mayer stated. 

The delegation in charge of legal representation, architecture, and constructing the new community center were also invited to the stage to introduce themselves. Michelle Fox of Big Fire Law and Policy Group of Omaha, NE will be the owner’s representative for the community center and Red Hawk Estates. Angie Wilson from DSGW will lead the architecture end for the project. Mike Charnholm, Vice President of Scull Construction will serve as Project Executive, while Scull’s Mike Jangula will serve as Project Manager, and Shane Crecelius as Pre-Construction Manager. The group is no stranger to MHA Nation, as they have all worked or been a part of previous projects within Fort Berthold.

Mayer promised to host another event once all the designs are developed so residents can get a better idea of all the services and opportunities this community center will bring.

Mayer, who is a family practice doctor, spent the rest of the evening discussing Native Elder healthcare. There are approximately 1,647 MHA Elders in ND and 39% of those live on the reservation. “The most important thing is a very strong home health program,” Mayer said. She stressed the significance of safety assessments within the homes of elders. “People who can check your bathroom, rails, see if your toilets are ok, ramps, check whether you need a walker. We want them to be safe and have a high quality of life and be in their homes for as long as they can.”

The Councilwoman brought up alternatives to nursing homes and suggested enriching a culture where families and especially grandchildren are more involved. “Elders being able to stay in their homes, it’s a lower cost. They don’t want to go to nursing homes. And we have to make sure they’re safe, and that our culture is preserved in their dignity for all their years of service they’ve given to their families; and the knowledge and wisdom they’ve gained through it,” Mayer said.

If an elder gets to the point where they can no longer care for themselves and no qualified family member is available, Mayer says it’s time then to place that individual in assisted living. The average cost for assisted living is around $4,000 a month, while nursing home care around Fort Berthold is about $10,000. “Medicaid, Medicare, and our Sanford health plan do not cover nursing home care,” Mayer said. “It’s expensive, we have a lot of elders that come to the council members to ask for funding because the families are getting strapped. What happens is the county and the state will take your home, take your car, your oil royalties, all for the payments of a nursing home.”

The Councilwoman proposed using tax dollars and oil royalties to purchase long term care health insurance, or nursing home insurance for those that are in their 70s, 80s, and 90s. “We put them on a plan and pay their premiums, so when it’s time and they want to go, they can go, and know that they won’t lose all their belongings and be taken care of until we build our own nursing home. But we have to do something right now in the meantime,” Mayer said.

  Councilwoman Mayer promised to host many more community updates in the future now that Covid-19 is on the decline.