Patients and their families coming into Anchorage from rural Alaska now have a new place to stay. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) celebrated the opening of its patient housing area on Wednesday.

Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Valerie Davidson joined dozens of people at the open house. She spoke about her experience when she was 4 years old and had to stay in the hospital for months after being severely burned on 20-percent of her body. Because of the lack of patient housing, her mother wasn’t able to stay with her.

ANTHC chief of staff LeeAnn Garrick said it’s stories like Davidson’s that inspired the organization to provide more housing.

The new facility also has Alaska’s first Ronald McDonald House for expectant mothers and people with children in the hospital.

Altogether there are 202 rooms and several kitchens where people can store and prepare Native foods.

“It’s important our people have access to traditional foods they’re used to. That means a lot to them in our culture when they’re staying here,” Garrick said. “Bringing fish, bringing caribou, those are healing meals.”

The facility is dedicated to Mike Zacharof, an ANTHC board member who passed away in 2014. A plaque in his honor recognizes how he “worked tirelessly for more than 50 years to improve the lives and health of Alaska Native people.”

KTVA 11’s Heather Hintze can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.