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HHS roundup: ‘Rez Rally,’ new booster, health annex progress

The theme of this year’s event is “Rez Rally Rising.” (Courtesy Seminole Media Productions)

HOLLYWOOD – The Seminole Tribe’s Health and Human Services (HHS) Department is gearing up for its first in-person “Rez Rally” since January 2020. The last rally took place on the Big Cypress Reservation just before the Covid-19 virus was declared a pandemic.

The event – “Rez Rally Rising” – is scheduled to take place on the Hollywood Reservation on Jan. 7. It is organized by Integrative Health (a branch of HHS) and is done to promote physical activity and good health among tribal members and tribal employees. Participants can run or walk a 3-mile or 1-mile course at their own pace.

“It’s to bring back physical activity to help reduce things like diabetes, hypertension and other health complications among tribal members,” HHS executive director Dr. Vandhana Kiswani-Barley said. “This is the big comeback.”

Traditionally the event draws participation from scores of individuals and teams from each reservation. There were 650 participants at the last event.

For more information and to register, go to

New Covid-19 booster

Kiswani-Barley said HHS has received the updated bivalent Covid-19 vaccine booster shot for tribal members. She said the booster provides a broad protection from Covid-19 and the omicron variant. The booster has been approved for those over six months old.

Kiswani-Barley said the tribe’s pediatricians are administering the booster to those 13 and younger. Those older than 13 can receive the booster from pharmacy staff.

Questions can be directed to the HHS hotline at (833) 786-3458.

New health annex

The tribe recently approved a design contract for a 20,000 square foot, two-story annex to be built on the north end of the Betty Mae Jumper Medical Center on the Hollywood Reservation.

Kiswani-Barley said it would house HHS services on the first floor and offices on the second floor, allowing the main facility to be used for its range of services with medical providers, the pharmacy and space for other HHS-related departments.

The annex would also allow HHS staff that are currently located in the Taft Street office complex to be located on-site. In addition, the tribe’s Center for Behavioral Health would be provided space for a “crises center” at the facility. The tribe would also use the space to transition away from using contracted home health care workers from an outside agency into staffing its own such department with tribal employees.

There are also plans to house an imaging center in the annex for services like basic X-rays and ultrasounds.

Kiswani-Barley said it is likely that work would be completed sometime in 2025 or 2026.

The design contract was awarded to Fort Lauderdale-based Saltz Michelson Architects.

Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at