Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
The executive director of the Bullhook Community Health Center said the papers have been signed to lease a space in the Atrium Shopping Center for a new dental clinic in Havre. “It’s going to cost a little bit, but it’s going to be worth it so we’re going forward ,” Cindy Smith said. “We’re excited about it. It’s finally coming together. Smith said that last week she signed a lease agreement with David Shaw, owner of the Atrium, to locate the clinic on the upper floor of the shopping mall. The community health center is contracting with local businesses to upgrade the electrical and plumbing systems in the space, and has ordered the equipment for the clinic. She said she has made an offer to a dentist to come work at the clinic and is waiting for the reply on that. Two other dentists have also said they are interested, she said. Matthew Huff, who will receive his d e g r e e f r om t h e V i r g i n i a Commonwealth University School of Dentistry in May, has already agreed to come to work at the clinic after he graduates. Smith said the timing of the clinic’s opening depends on how long it takes to remodel the space and to receive and install the dental equipment. The announcement came after several years of planning to open a clinic through the community health center. While some dentists have recently opened new practices in Havre, the number of dentists in the region is still less than it was 30 years ago. Finding dentists who have openings and also will accept payment through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program has become more and more difficult in recent years, and the Community Health Center has made expanding dental care in the Area a high priority. The dental care will be provided on a similar model to the health care offered at the Bullhook clinic, located just east of Northern Montana Hospital. All patients will be accepted, although Smith said a high priority will be placed on children and pregnant women, with Medicaid and CHIP accepted for payment was well as standard health insurance. As with the Bullhook Community Health Center, a sliding fee scale based on income will also be offered, with a minimum payment of $40 to $45 required. The announcement of the location came after a complication of the clinic’s location Bullhook had a right of first refusal for a spot in the same complex just east of the hospital which houses the clinic as well as the dental practices of Drs. Michael Shelby and Daniel Shelby. Shortly after Bullhook found that it was awarded a $185,000 grant funded through the 2007 state Legislature to increase dental care in the state, it found that another entity was pursuing that location. Bullhook exercised its right of first refusal, but was unable to meet financial requirements for a three-year lease agreement with Northern Montana Hospital. The Veterans Affairs Montana Healthcare system announced last week that it had leased that space to open the long-awaited VA clinic in Havre. Smith said Bullhook looked at many locations in Havre for the dental clinic and decided to lease the space in the Atrium for several reasons including its central location, parking and cost. She said Shaw worked closely with Bullhook in setting up the lease. The clinic will also be hiring an office manager, a dental hygienist and two dental assistants, with two more dental assistants planned to be hired when Huff arrives, Smith said. Smith said that when the clinic first opens, it will target high-priority needs first including people with chronic problems. Those cases will probably have several days of the week blocked out for their care, she said. The exact details of that will be worked out once the dentist arrives, with more fine-tuning likely once Huff arrives, Smith said. “We will probably have to prioritize it, especially when there is only one dentist,” she said. “It will be easier when the other dentist comes on.” Basic care, including cleaning and preventative care, and procedures such as filling cavities will be the primary function of the clinic, Smith said, although other care will also be available. She said Bullhook plans to provide scheduled appointments but will also try to take walk-in patients.