Canku Ota

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


June 16, 2001 - Issue 38



Eagle Shield Director Brings in $100,000 Award


A boon for Blackfeet seniors


 by Jennifer Perez Great Falls Tribune


Tribune photo by Stuart S. White

BROWNING -- Connie Bremner transformed a tribal senior center into a health care facility that now serves more than 600 elderly and disabled people a year. Thanks to her efforts, the Eagle Shield Senior Citizens Center on the Blackfeet Reservation is now $95,000 richer.

Bremner, 66, of Browning, is one of 10 people nationwide to receive a $100,000 Robert Wood Johnson Community Health Leadership Program award, from a pool of 577 nominees.

"There is no question that her enthusiasm, responsibility and efforts are of inestimable value to our community and our Blackfeet elders," said Roland Kennerly, senior advocate at Eagle Shield.

Bremner will receive $95,000 to sustain and strengthen the program; $5,000 is for her.

"I just thank God for this award, because it is going to help our efforts," said Bremner, director of the Eagle Shield center since 1994.

Eagle Shield offers a wide range of senior programs, from nutrition education and meal delivery to home personal assistance and social activities.

Most of the $95,000 will be used to provide short-term care for terminally ill people ineligible for other programs, and as startup money for a proposed Blackfeet home health care program, she said.

"(Bremner) has grown the program from a very basic program to one that is very vibrant and comprehensive," said Mariella Tan Puerto, deputy director of the Boston-based award program.

"The people that we look for are people who have overcome tremendous obstacles in creating and enhancing programs in communities where health care needs have been ignored and unmet," Tan Puerto said.

The center is moving into a brand new building in early July that will include a 16-bed elderly care complex and an exam room for senior citizens. Bremner said she hopes the tribe also will assign a doctor to the center at least one afternoon a week.

Within a year, Native healers will hold workshops to teach people how to use herbs as medicine, she said.

When she began in 1994, Bremner created a personal care attendant program to help seniors at the center. In fall 1995, the center became licensed to bill Medicaid for the health services the program provided. It now serves 106 disabled clients, ages 4 to 94, Indian and non-Indian, from local and surrounding communities.

With a payroll of $500,000 a year, the personal care attendant program "is a very vital part of our reservation economy," Bremner said.

It has trained 300 younger tribal members to become certified personal care attendants. Of those, 95 work on the Blackfeet Reservation, where unemployment is about 70 percent.

Bremner also started an Alzheimer's screening and treatment program at Eagle Shield in 1998. The services were stopped two years later, when the program ran out of federal funds.

The Eagle Shield center also feeds about 200 seniors breakfast and lunch every day. "When our elders live alone, they tend to skip meals," Bremner said. "This way we can assure they will receive adequate nutrition."

Bremner's role has gone beyond providing community health care.

"She has helped put out a fire started by a dementia client, and then gone to the mayor to help improve firefighters' response time," said Mary Vielle, care coordinator for Eagle Shield. "She went to school to learn about income tax forms because tax preparation fees were too high. Now she does free preparation for all who can't afford to pay."

"Connie helps the elders out of affection, and nothing will keep her from meeting their needs," Vielle said. "The elders in this community know that they can count on her kindness."

The services at the Eagle Shield senior citizens center are separate from the tribal Community Health Representatives program and the Indian Health Service.

"The tribal CHR program is spread so thin that we need more help," Bremner said.

Bremner will receive the award June 27 in Washington, D.C.

Eagle Shield Senior Citizens Center
The Eagle Shields Senior Citizens is a program developed by the Blackfeet Tribe to provide assistance to the senior citizens of the Blackfeet Reservation by providing them with meals, social events, and access to services from other programs such as the Personal Care Attendant (PCA) Program, Green Thumb Volunteers Worksite, and the Host Agency for the Visually Impaired Program Volunteers


 Locate the Blackfeet Reservation on this map!!

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