Government and Health Care

Open wide in Kentwood, starting Sept. 2

New Kent County Health Department clinic will provide dental services.

August 22, 2014
| By Pete Daly |
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south clinic
The new Kent County South Clinic will feature a dental care component run by a not-for-profit organization. Courtesy Kent County Health Department

Since getting results of the 2011 Community Health Needs Assessment, the Kent County Health Department has been planning to make dental care more accessible to all county residents.

Those efforts come to fruition Sept. 2 with the opening of the new Kent County South Clinic at the former Kentwood Library on Kalamazoo Avenue SE.

KCSC is a $2.6 million project that converted the former municipal library into a 16,000-square-foot facility now owned by the county. One half of it is occupied by the county Health Department, offering traditional health care services such as immunizations and WIC, the state’s health and nutrition program for mothers and babies.

The other half of the building is being leased by Michigan Community Dental Clinics Inc., a not-for-profit management organization established in 2006 to provide dental services to adults and children on Medicaid, as well as low income and uninsured individuals.

There is increasing scientific evidence linking oral health with overall health and chronic illness, so when county residents expressed a need for more access to dental services, the county took note. In fact, out of 44 priorities listed in the Community Health Needs Assessment, “ensuring access to dental care” was the fifth-highest ranked priority.

Health Department spokesperson Lisa LaPlante said many dentists do not accept Medicaid patients because the federal reimbursement rate to private practice dentists is “very low” — about 31 percent of what the dentist charges. Some dentists in private practice have said they actually lose money treating Medicaid patients. However, clinics within the MCDC organization receive Medicaid reimbursement closer to 70 percent.

LaPlante commented on “how many people are telling us how bad the need was” for low-income dental services in Kent County.

“I’m getting phone calls every day from people who are asking for help — every day,” she said. “They want to know when the clinic is going to open, how to get signed up …”

MCDC estimates there will be almost 17,000 visits a year for dental care at the South Clinic, which will employ two full-time dentists, one in general dentistry and the other a pediatric dentist.

“We could not have done this without the leadership of Kent County’s Board of Commissioners, the city of Kentwood and a very generous philanthropic community,” said Adam London, health officer for the KCHD. “More than a dozen organizations shared our vision for providing this essential service to our community.”

The organizations that jointly contributed more than $566,000 to the new clinic include the Steelcase Foundation, O’Donovan Family Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, Spectrum Health Healthier Communities, Doornink Foundation, West Michigan District Dental Society Foundation, Frey Foundation, Sebastian Foundation, Doug and Maria DeVos Foundation, Matilda M. & Harold D. Crane Foundation, Delta Dental Association Foundation and the Baldwin Foundation.

LaPlante also mentioned that general contractor Christman Construction Co. and the other contractors “were very philanthropic in their bids” and looked for ways to stay within the budget. She noted the city of Kentwood was also very considerate in its sale price for the library site.

“It is a real, true, public-private partnership in many ways,” she said.

MCDC has headquarters in Boyne City and administers a network of about 25 clinics, many in Northern Michigan, that serve over 90,000 individuals. Services include oral exams and cleaning, fluoride treatment, fillings and crowns, root canals, tooth removal and replacement, dentures and emergency treatment.

According to the MCDC website, non-Medicaid clients are offered a reduced fee schedule equivalent to the Delta Dental PPO rates. Surplus funds allow for the establishment of the Dental Assistance Fund, which is used to supplement the cost of care on a sliding percentage, based upon an individual’s income.

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