Honoured with a traditional blessing ceremony, the ground has been broken for an $11 million project that will see the Stoney Health Centre in Mini Thni (Morley) almost double in size.

When completed in 2024, the centre will be about 22,000 sq. ft.

"We need an expanded facility so we can accommodate the growth of the programs and also the growth of the community," says Aaron Khan, CEO and executive director of Stoney Health Services.

Health care needs and programs now exceed the physical capacity of the Stoney Health Centre. There's been a 215 per cent growth in demand from 2017 to 2020 alone, officials say.

The original facility was constructed in 1998 and was designed to serve a population of 2,000 people. It currently offers triage, medical examination, x-ray and laboratory, meeting and consultation rooms combined with a pharmacy, optometry and dental offices, and administrative spaces.

Elders, seniors, and some younger Nation members are challenged with complex medical needs that require treatment locally in a culturally supportive environment. It also assists with an average of 100 births per year.

Stoney Health has recently completed the construction of an 8,500 sq. ft. adult residential treatment centre across the river that is expected to open within the next five months.

"There's a lot of needs in the community for these programs. We want to provide accessible services closer to home. I know Calgary is not very far from here, but we want to have pretty much everything available for the community."

"If they have to go to the hospital or for specialized treatments, it's a different story, but we want to have accessible health care here."

Stoney Health also provides a broad range of culturally sensitive, community-based activities focused on promoting health and injury/illness prevention, maternal, child, youth, adult, and elder health activities and programs.

It's being funded by Indigenous Services Canada.

The traditional Stoney ceremony included a blessing led by several pipe holders followed by a drum circle and singers of the Nakoda Nation Singer, who performed several honour songs. Dancers were Shyles Smalleyes, Dace Hunter, Taylor Crow Spreads His Wings, and 5-year-old Darius Labelle.