For Inupiat Eskimo families in Northwest Alaska, access to a nursing home for elders required boarding a flight to Anchorage, 549 miles southeast of Kotzebue, and leaving behind traditional foods, family and friends. In order to ensure that the area’s elders could grow old and spend their last years near their culture, family and friends, Maniilaq Association (Maniilaq), a not-for-profit consortium owned by 12 federally recognized tribes in Northwest Alaska, sought to open the first nursing home in the community as an addition to the existing hospital in Kotzebue, Alaska. Weather, logistics, cultural differences, and
high construction costs make rural Alaska an extremely challenging location to develop projects. To ensure that the plans for the elder care addition to the hospital came to fruition, Alaska Growth Capital BIDCO, Inc., an Alaskan-based community development entity, provided $17.5 million in NMTC financing, which combined with funding from the Maniilaq Association, the State of Alaska, Dudley Ventures, LLC, and New York Community Bank secured the $24 million necessary to make the plan a reality.
Opened in 2011, the new 14,340 sq. ft. facility serves the elders of a 12-village Northwest Arctic region, an area the size of Ohio, and provides them with a high level of medical care in the region. For Kotzebue village, which lies 33 miles above the Arctic Circle and has a population of 3,200, the nursing home provides advanced care for up to 18 elders, as well as 20 full time jobs. The focus on culturally important care has won the Maniilaq Health Center nursing home high praise, with one its elder care providers even being awarded the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 2012 Community Health Leaders Award.