San Diegan helps improve quality of life for Native Americans

Posted at 5:46 PM, Apr 07, 2023

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — “I know how important it is to the community. I know how badly it is needed,” says Paula Brim. 

Brim is the Board of Directors Chair of the San Diego American Indian Health Center. You may not see Brim at the front desk, but she has been working behind the scenes for 15 years. 

“I have watched people’s lives change because this is here. We are understanding of Native American needs and concerns,” says Brim. 

The clinic has been around since 1979. It is made up of three buildings on First Avenue near Balboa Park.  The non-profit provides medical, behavioral health and wellness services, not only to Native Americans but also the surrounding community regardless of their ability to pay.

“The majority of the people we work with grew up on reservations. Indian Health Services is one of the many promises the government made to Indian people when they gave up their land and moved onto reservations. This is a continuation of that,” says Brim. 

Denis Castro’s family grew up on Indian reservations. He has been coming to the clinic for 20 years.

“It is a family situation here. You don’t feel like a number or have to wait hours to get treated,” says Castro.

Many of the staff who treat Castro are also Native American. They organize community events. 

“Our heritage grounds us on who we were and who we should be. It is part of us, part of our hearts, souls and spirit,” says Castro. 

The center has about 80 employees and over 3,500 patients. However, there is only one parking garage with only 20 parking spots.

Brim says the garage and the building above it will be torn down. The organization plans to build a new, much larger parking structure and health clinic, which will provide more services to the community.

“Before I left here, I wanted to have us on a trajectory where the new building’s future was assured. I feel like it is on that path now,” says Brim.