Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
A several-year effort to bring a new dental clinic to Havre received a shot in the arm Thursday when the Bullhook Community Health Center was informed the state has awarded it a $185,000 two-year grant. “We hope to be up and running in two months,” Bullhook Community Health Center executive director Cindy Smith said this morning. In 2007, the Montana Legislature authorized grants to help community health centers operate dental clinics. Bullhook applied for the grant last year, but was not awarded the grant. This year, the final year of grant awards, the Havre clinic was one of three recipients, Smith said. Livingston also received a grant, $100,000, and Helena was awarded $15,000, she said. Bullhook announced earlier this month Matthew Huff, a dental student graduating next spring, has signed a contract to come work at Bullhook, and is expected to start practicing there in June. Smith said this morning she is in the process of interviewing other dentists to come to the clinic, including interviews this week. A fundraising committee has started organizing events to help pay for the creation of the clinic, with the first a guppy derby happening tonight. The fundraisers, set before the grant award was known, will help with the purchase of equipment and to help with hiring. “It’s really going to be exciting to be able to tell everybody (at the derby) we can do this sooner,” Smith said. She said the timing of the dental clinic opening is still dependent on more information. The details of the state grant are in the mail, she said, and details of a lease agreement with Northern Montana Hospital to house the clinic across the parking lot from Bullhook in the family practice complex owned by the hospital are also still forthcoming. Smith said work to prepare the space for the clinic also still has to be done. While the space was once set for dental care, it had been remodeled into a family practice office. Bullhook will have to get plumbers and other contractors in to get the facility ready, she said. Fundraising will continue for the dental clinic and Bullhook in general, she added. While the dental clinic is expected to become self-sustaining, through the payment for its services, once it is up and running, there are many of input costs, Smith said. The clinic will operate on the same level as the rest of Bullhook Community Health Center. Its services will be open to all, and it will offer a sliding-fee scale based on income. People will receive reduced charges based on their relation to the federal poverty scale, ranging from full-price down to a minimum fee. The minimum will be a bit higher than the $15 on the medical practice side, she added, probably being $40 to $45 for dental work. The dental clinic will also accept payment through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, as well as other medical insurance accepted at the clinic.