With the addition of clinical space in North Adams, Community Health Programs has completed the first phase of its countywide dental expansion project, and design work is now under way for a new dental practice facility in Adams.
These steps are part of CHP’s multi-year plan to improve dental care access for thousands in the Berkshires who rely on MassHealth. Due to low reimbursement rates, fewer dental practices accept MassHealth. CHP intends to fill this widening
A $60,000 award from the Gilson Family Foundation is supporting the dental expansion in Northern Berkshire, along with a $25,000 gift from the William J. and Margery S. Barrett Fund and a $3,000 award from the Agnes Lindsay Trust. CHP also has a federal grant of $523,756 in place for Adams and is pursuing additional public and private support for the “#CHPSmile” project.
MassHealth reimbursement rates increased on Jan. 1 for dental care provided by community health centers—a significant factor in CHP’s decision to expand dental care. Once the brick and mortar aspects of expansion are funded, CHP anticipates that higher MassHealth reimbursements will cover operational costs.
“Over time, patients who need dental care will be much better served, so it’s exciting to see these plans taking shape,” said Jennifer Wilkinson, CHP senior director of infrastructure and public health. CHP has added four to its dental staff in recent months and two others dentists will join shortly: one in North Adams and another in Pittsfield. Already the wait time for certain oral surgery procedures is shortening.
“When we strengthen patients' oral health we make an impact on their overall physical and emotional wellness,” said Lia Spiliotes, CHP’s chief executive officer. “And because some people avoid dentists, we want to reassure people that dental care can be pain free and successful.”
North Adams now has five clinical rooms, compared with two previously. In addition to the new Adams facility CHP is expanding its space in Pittsfield and, eventually, in Great Barrington. The design firm Architectural Insights is designing the new Adams facility, which is expected to open in early 2023.
As of last December, about 25,000 Berkshire County residents (about 20 percent) were covered by MassHealth. However, Spiliotes said 30 to 40 percent have trouble accessing dental care.
CHP serves approximately 4,000 dental patients and projects a doubling of that number over several years. In addition to MassHealth, CHP accepts most forms of other insurance.
“We recognize the importance of dental care in overall health and well-being,” Peter Spina of the Gilson Family Foundation. “CHP’s mission aligns closely with our foundation's work, so we are happy to support this project.”