ORLEANS — Northern Counties Health Care recently announced the expansion of their dental program in collaborative partnership with North Country Hospital and the Village of Orleans.
Once operational, the new Orleans Dental Center will employ a dentist, hygienist, dental assistant, receptionist and office supervisor.
The practice will have two Operatories and two hygiene rooms, and they expect to serve at least 500 new patients within the first year of operations.
In January 2015, North Country Hospital completed a community needs assessment, which identified access to dental care as one of the biggest challenges facing people living in Orleans County.
This data about the oral health treatment needs and prevention strategies in the NEK area painted a grim picture.
In Orleans County, 65 percent of adults aged 45-64 have had tooth extractions compared to the state average of 52 percent. Nearly 10 percent of adult residents have lost all permanent teeth due to decay or disease.
In 2014, of the Medicaid-eligible Vermonters in the Newport area aged 19-64, only 23 percent received preventative dental services.
In January, Northern Counties Health Care identified a grant opportunity to help address these challenges.
“Our Goal,” said Shawn Tester, CEO of NCHC, “is to expand access to affordable dental services for people living in the Barton and Orleans area in order to improve their quality of life.”
Working together with North Country Hospital and the Village of Orleans, the three organizations applied for grant funding which will cover the cost of operations for a new dental center for up to two years.
Even with the grant funds, a site for the new dental center was needed, and this is where the partnership developed.
The village of Orleans owns the site of a former medical office building on Union Street, and offered it as part of the solution.
North Country hospital pledged $100,000 in financial support toward constructing the new facility at that location. NCHC is covering the balance of the construction costs.
“Northern Counties Health Care has a strong track record of providing essential primary and preventative care services to the citizens of the Northeast Kingdom,” said North Country Hospital President Claudio Fort. “We are pleased to be a part of this important initiative to bring critically needed dental services to the Orleans/Barton community.”
With an identified acute need and an innovative collaborative approach to solving the communities’ challenges, NCHC was awarded the grant in June 2016, and construction began immediately.
“Our Grant stipulates a very narrow window to become operational and see our first patient,” says Tester. “John Morley and the village of Orleans have really bent over backwards to help us meet our deadlines, they are a great partner to work with.”
As a Federally Qualified Health Center, NCHC is committed to providing services to all members or our communities, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay.
They say they will accept Medicaid insurance as well as offer a sliding fee scale to make dental services more affordable.
The Orleans Dental Center expects to be operational by December 2016.