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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Local Health Centers Launches New Dental Facility


SCHENECTADY — Hometown Health Centers unveiled Monday its new state-of-the-art dental clinic⁣ that officials hope will address‌ the growing need for⁢ dental services for Medicaid recipients.

New State-of-the-Art ⁤Dental ⁣Clinic in Schenectady

The 12,500-square-foot facility at 1108 State St. ⁤features​ 30 exam rooms, and ⁢offers‌ preventative and pediatric care, as well as emergency appointments and oral surgeries regardless of insurance, said ⁣Hometown Health CEO ‌Joe Gambino during a ribbon-cutting⁤ ceremony.

“You can proudly now talk about the largest ​modern dental facility in the ⁢entire Capital Region, and it​ sits right here in Schenectady,” Gambino said.

Plans for​ the​ facility date back nearly three years, when Ellis Medicine announced‌ it would be shuttering its dental clinic in June 2021. The announcement prompted concerns about the ⁣growing gap in dental⁤ services in a city where the poverty rate is high and patient options are few and far between.

The Ellis facility served around 9,000 patients annually, including Medicaid recipients, which‍ have just a handful of dental providers across the entire Capital‍ Region to choose⁤ from, Gambino said.

Schenectady County has ⁣more than 41,000 residents enrolled⁣ in mainstream‍ Medicaid plans, according to state Department of Health data.

“Without being overly ​dramatic, it’s a crisis,” Gambino said. “There is ⁤simply more demand for ​dental services⁢ . . . and there‍ are basically ⁢no providers in the area that take medicaid patients.”

To help fill the gap, Hometown Health Centers brought forward plans to ⁤convert a vacant pharmacy ​building adjacent from its longtime facility at 1044 State St. into a dental‌ clinic in hopes of doubling its number of annual dental patients ⁣to 14,000.

The ​$7.8 million project was supported by the‍ Schenectady County Legislature, which allocated ⁤$4‍ million in ⁣American Rescue Plan Act‌ funds toward construction costs. Hometown​ Health contributed around $2 million towards the renovations, which were also supported by⁤ the Schenectady Foundation, and $1.5 million in federal funding, including‍ $750,000​ secured⁢ by Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam.

“This is an ​important moment,” said Gary‍ Hughes, chair of the⁣ Schenectady County Legislature,‍ who touted the project⁣ as an example of what happens ​when the government works collaboratively with⁤ private organizations.

The new center has 60 employees and held a soft opening last week.

Gambino noted that the facility ⁣is the only‍ one in the region offering oral surgery services to Medicaid patients.

But despite the increase ⁤in patient capacity, Hometown Health ​Centers has a waiting list of 5,000 seeking dental care, according to Gambino, who ⁣said the State Street location was selected intentionally due to‌ its proximity to patients in need of care.

Gambino said the lack of options in the region often forced⁢ patients to ⁣visit an emergency ⁤room to receive ⁣treatment for an achy tooth or ‍other oral problems.

Rory Ogden, the ⁣chief dental officer for Hometown Health Centers, said the lack of services has kept many from receiving​ basic care. ⁤She noted the⁣ new facility is a step in addressing the need, but‌ more‌ needs to be done.

“While we cannot be the sole solution of this desperate issue, this new ‌clinic will help accommodate new patients and hopefully start decreasing the wait time ⁢for timely dental care,” she said.

Tonko, meanwhile, praised the new facility’s opening, which he‌ said could serve as a​ model for the ‍rest of the state.⁤ Tonko also lauded the American Rescue Plan Act ‌approved by Congress in 2021, ⁣which covered a bulk of the costs ⁤for the facility.

Asked ⁢what Congress​ was doing to ⁣address the lack of clinics that accept Medicaid, Tonko pointed to recent efforts to expand Medicaid coverage through⁣ the ‌Affordable Care Act⁢ as well ⁢as the Inflation Reduction Act.

“Infrastructure-wise⁣ and dollar-wise, we constantly work at addressing that challenge,” he said.

Rafael Torres
Rafael Torres
Rafael Torres, a native of Schenectady, has returned to his hometown after several years of reporting in the Midwest. A graduate of Missouri School of Journalism, Alex is known for his empathetic approach to local news, covering everything from community events to local governance, always with an aim to bridge diverse perspectives.
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  1. Great addition to our community! Dental care is an essential part of overall healthcare, and having a new facility will greatly benefit everyone. #SmileBright


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