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Wellness center for active military, vets considered by city

Col. Chad Phillips of the 138th Wing Division of the Oklahoma National Guard speaks to Tulsa City Council on Wednesday, March 6, 2024 at City Hall.
Max Bryan
Col. Chad Phillips of the 138th Wing Division of the Oklahoma National Guard speaks to Tulsa City Council on Wednesday, March 6, 2024 at City Hall.

City officials are considering putting federal money toward a health and wellness center for Tulsa’s Oklahoma Air National Guard division.

The center would cost up to $11 million, and would provide mental health services, "sexual assault response," and exercise space for members of the 138th Wing at the division’s base at Tulsa International Airport.

Councilor Phil Lakin said the city would invest about $2 million of American Rescue Plan Act money in the project. He's spoken to state Rep. Jeff Boatman about donating up to $7 million of state money. He also said more than 20 parties would be interested in taking on the project.

Lakin said putting the ARPA funds forward depends on other money sources committing to the project by Sept. 1 so it can get finalized before the end of the year.

City councilors at a committee meeting Wednesday largely spoke in favor of the health center, both for economic impact and to support veterans and active duty military members.

"I need the physical part to keep me in shape, but also, what’s been highlighted over the many years is the mental side, mental support. And then if you talk to the younger generation, it’s also the collaborative side. They want a place. They want to go hang out with their people," 138th Col. Chad Phillips said.

Phillips also suggested veterans could access the center with their identification, adding that they could mentor active members at the facility.

Council chairwoman Crista Patrick supported the plans for the wellness center because it would put veterans' services closer to midtown, downtown and north Tulsa.

"We have the opportunity to construct something that will help us keep this base active, and continue to cause the United States of America to continue to invest in us — not just through additional personnel, but through additional equipment and everything else," Lakin said.

Councilor Lori Decter Wright supported the project, but asked fellow councilors to communicate how it fits into the purpose of ARPA money.

ARPA funds may be used to compensate for government services or economic impact that decreased during COVID-19.

"$2 million being 20% of a $10 million project — it makes sense around this table. I want to be clear to the public why this is a priority over, say, the Family Safety Center that's struggling to get their final tranche of funding, or some of the other things that, even within the city of Tulsa, are under-resourced in our departments," she said.

Decter Wright suggested officials better communicate the value of the proposed facility.

Max Bryan is a news anchor and reporter for KWGS. A Tulsa native, Bryan worked at newspapers throughout Arkansas and in Norman before coming home to "the most underrated city in America." Several of Bryan's news stories have either led to or been cited in changes both in the public and private sectors.