CHAMPAIGN — Thousands of Champaign-Urbana area residents who have been going without dental care because they can't afford it or they can't find a dentist who will accept Medicaid can now turn to Frances Nelson Health Center.
The new dental clinic at Frances Nelson, open since mid-October, has appointment openings for adults and children, according to Nancy Greenwalt, executive director of SmileHealthy, the local organization running the dental clinic.
The Frances Nelson Dental Center was built through a community fundraising effort and lots of volunteer help, said Lyn Jones, president and CEO of United Way of Champaign County, at an opening ceremony at the dental clinic Tuesday.
The clinic at 819 Bloomington Road, C, will host a public open house from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday (Nov. 9).
Jones said thanks are owed to the community for this dental clinic, which opened two years after United Way invited local medical providers, dentists, social service agencies and others to discuss the unmet needs for dental care in Champaign County.
Each year, about 3,000 local area adults turn to local hospital emergency rooms with oral health problems that have gone untreated and have escalated into more serious health issues, the agency found.
"We brought all these concerns to the table and then we started thinking about the resources," Jones recalled.
Planners realized Frances Nelson, the federally qualified health center that is already serving needy patients for primary health care needs, would be a logical location for the dental clinic, Jones said.
Just five years ago, Frances Nelson moved to its current, larger location to serve more patients, said Barbara Dunn, CEO of the clinic's parent organization, the Community Health Improvement Center of Decatur.
"This truly is a home health place for 8,000 people who live in Champagin County," she said.
Dr. Scott Anderson, a local dentist who Jones said has been a great resource behind the opening of the dental clinic, said the need for this center has been well-known.
"I know it's going to (affect) lives," he said.
The new dental clinic will serve about 1,100 adults and the same number of children a year.
It is staffed by a one full-time dentist, two hygienists, and three dental assistants, and a "huge team of volunteers," according to Greenwalt.
Services being offered include dental exams (including school-required exams) along with cleanings, fillings, extractions and sealants.
At the time the dental center opened, there was a waiting list of about 1,000 patients, Greenwalt said, "but there are definitely openings."
Contributions toward the dental center from donors total $693,269, and that includes $100,000 from Carle to build out the center in some vacant space at Frances Nelson and significant gifts from Leslie and Jimmy John Liautaud, Provena Covenant Medical Center, United Way of Champaign County and a trust gift from the Christian Counseling Center. There was also a $320,500 grant from the Illinois Children's Healthcare Foundation and Carle is providing free rent for a year.
The project also received $463,690 in funding from the Illinois Department of Heatlhcare and Family Services and an Illinois Capital Development grant, according to United Way.
The organization hopes to raise another $50,000 to help support long-term operation of the dental center.
Some facts to know about the dental center:
— It is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
— It accepts Medicaid/All Kids and all private dental insurance for payment. Patients without insurance may be eligible for reduced fees.
— For more information or an appointment, call 403-5477.