CHI St. Joseph’s Health Community Dental Clinic in Park Rapids, Minnesota, will start renovations for a new facility scheduled to open in the spring of 2020 thanks to four grants that will cover the project’s costs. The new clinic will allow for additional patient capacity and is expected to provide primary dental services to more than 3,000 people on an annual basis.
The sole purpose of the Community Dental Clinic is to provide dental care to patients enrolled in public care dental programs, low-income families, and other at-risk populations. It has no geographic boundaries. Since opening in 2004, it has served patients from 58 counties and 217 communities.
There is a significant, unmet need for oral healthcare for those on public programs and a general shortage of dentists in rural Minnesota, administrators report. The ratio of patients to dentists in Hubbard County is 4,410:1, while the statewide ratio is 1,440:1. Also in Hubbard County, 27% of the population is enrolled in public programs.
The shortage of dental providers for individuals on public programs is directly related to the fact that Medicaid reimbursement is less than what it costs to provide the care, administrators say. Minnesota ranks forty-ninth out of the 50 states for reimbursement rates of children needing dental care, according to the ADA Health Policy Institute. When adults are added, Minnesota ranks fourth from the bottom.
St. Joseph’s has subsidized the clinic’s operations for many years, which has made it financially difficult to expand. The current clinic has operated within a small leased space in Park Rapids since it opened in 2004 and often has a waiting list. To address these disparities, administrators say, community support is needed to expand it for patients from throughout the region.
The clinic has received $425,000 from the Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation, $347,393 from the Otto Bremer Trust, $260,247 from the Minnesota Department of Health, and $250,000 from PrimeWest Health to help pay for the facility. The CHI St. Joseph’s Health Foundation will continue to fundraise for the remaining project costs.
“We at Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation believe that everyone deserves a healthy smile and we are passionate about improving access to oral healthcare to people who need it most,” said Joe Lally, executive director of the Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation. “St. Joseph’s plays a critical role in helping people in Park Rapids and surrounding communities, and we are thrilled to support its expansion and growth.”
“Supporting medical services to low-income, special needs, and underserved communities has been a priority of the Otto Bremer Trust,” said Daniel Reardon, co-CEO and trustee of the Otto Bremer Trust. “St. Joseph’s is responding to a need by constructing a new dental clinic in the greater Park Rapids area, and we are pleased to help support its completion.”
“St. Joseph’s has always seen oral health as a critical component of overall health for patients, and it aligns with our mission to improve the health of the communities we serve,” said Ben Koppelman, president of CHI St. Joseph’s Health. “We are grateful to our many funding partners who are helping us continue to expand dental services to those who otherwise may not have access to care. Without their support, this new clinic would not be possible.”