Construction of a new $55 million hospital is under way on the eastern end of the Choctaw Indian Reservation off New Frog Level Road.

Ground was broken Monday morning on the 178,000 square-foot, 20-bed Choctaw Health Center east of the Choctaw Tech Parc.

The hospital will have a 36-room outpatient department, 18-chair dental department, six treatment rooms (two of which will be equipped for trauma), an emergency department, various treatment facilities, emergency medical services, behavioral health and community and public health services and all necessary support services.

The project is a joint venture between the Tribe and the Indian Health Service and is funded by USDA Rural Development and Trustmark National Bank.

Choctaw Indian Tribal Chief Phyliss J. Anderson and Indian Health Services Director Yvette Roubideaux signed the agreement on May 15 at the Indian Health Services offices in Rockville, Md.

The venture allows the Tribe to fast-track the health campus project. The Mississippi Choctaws were only one of seven tribes approved for the program by the Indian Health Services.

Singleton Architects of Jackson designed the building, while Johnson/Benchmark Construction of Jackson is the construction company.

Construction is expected to be complete by winter of 2014. It will be over twice the size of the current Choctaw Health Center.

"Our tribe has changed dramatically over the years and the needs of our people have evolved as our tribe has grown," Chief Anderson said Monday. "Today and together, we mark another important milestone as we break ground on the next generation of healthcare for our people."

Chief Anderson expressed appreciation to the Choctaw people for their support and encouragement during the process which led up to the groundbreaking.

"It has been a long and at times grueling process but there are many hardworking and dedicated people that have helped us get to this point today and I am so thankful for them," she said.

Also speaking at the ceremony was Trina George, the USDA State Director.

"The mission of the Choctaw Health Department is to raise the health status of the Choctaw people to the highest level possible," she said.

"As state director for Rural Development, I believe this project is a step in the right direction towards that mission."

Opened in 1976, the current Choctaw Health Center was built for a Tribal population of 4,000. It now serves the 10,000 plus members of the Tribe, as well as eligible non-members.

Over two-times the size of its predecessor, pre-construction on the new facility began in March 2013 with soil samplings and excavation.

Actual building construction will begin this fall. For more information contact the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians's Office of Public Information at 601-663-7532.