Tribe Launches Virtual Resources

by Chesley Oxendine

Chickasaw Nation has launched an array of virtual resources to support tribal citizens during COVID-19-prompted closures and quarantines.

The resources include everything from virtual medical visits to refilling prescriptions to WIC services. The Nation’s efforts also include a weekly series of “Connecting Our Community” videos discussing culture, health, fitness, and cooking.

The videos include instructions on how to make cloth face masks, how to handle deliveries, and how to safely shop amid the spread of COVID-19.

“It’s a Godsend for me,” said Brenda Gilbert, a 76-year-old Ada resident. “Every time I step out the door, I feel like I’m risking my life. I worry if I get the disease, I’ll die from it. So, any opportunity I can get to stay inside is one I’ll gladly take.”

The virtual medical visits in particular interest Gilbert, she said.

“My grandson walked me through setting up my phone to take these calls from the doctor’s office, so you can see and talk to someone without going in,” Gilbert said. “It will let me set up an appointment and everything.”

The process involves visiting the Chickasaw Nation’s website to set up a virtual visit for minor symptoms, as well as non-COVID injuries such as rashes, sinus pressure, sprains and strains, according to the website. Citizens can also call the virtual visit number at (580) 272-2776 to answer triage and eligibility questions.

After that, prospective patients download the Mend application for their smartphone, which allows for teleconferencing and video calls with a medical provider.

Native Americans living in Oklahoma with an active chart at any Chickasaw Nation Department of Health facility are welcome to set up a virtual visit if they’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, a press release states.

“Virtual visits are intended for those with mild symptoms and not requiring immediate medical intervention,” the release reads. “Those experiencing severe difficulty breathing should seek local medical care immediately.”

For Gilbert, that means she has someone at hand to talk to if she develops COVID-19 symptoms, she said.

“It’s just calming to know I can reach out to someone and discuss this stuff without having to put myself or others at further risk,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert and her family have also been watching the “Connecting Our Community” videos, she said.

“There’s a lot going on and you don’t know what to believe or what to think sometimes,” Gilbert said. “But they’re giving out some information that I feel like I can trust on staying safe, and I think that helps all of us.”

Virtual resources follow a more tangible range of services provided under the Chickasaw Nation COVID-19 Citizen Support program, established through the CARES Act.

“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact each of us in our local communities,” said Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby in an Aug. 5 video. “We are adapting to the ever changing circumstances to continue serving you, the Chickasaw people, with our programs and services.”

That support is crucial to keeping life as normal as possible during an abnormal time, Gilbert said.

“They’re really stepping up in a way that I think shows real leadership,” Gilbert said. “It makes me and my family feel safer to have these resources available.”

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