Community Health Programs is launching a $6 million, multi-year expansion of its dental care services, in order to serve more area residents who rely on MassHealth (Medicaid) coverage to pay for their oral health care.
Just over 25,000 Berkshire County residents (about 20 percent of the population) are covered by MassHealth. But dental care for these patients is often a challenge because just a handful of area dental practices can accept MassHealth as payment.
CHP’s practices in North Adams, Pittsfield and Great Barrington care for about 4,000 of these patients, but seeks to double that number in the coming years.
This year CHP will expand the practices in North Adams and Pittsfield. In early 2023 CHP will open a new dental practice on Depot Street in Adams. Further out, the Great Barrington Family Dental Center will also expand.
“Dental care for people who rely on Medicaid is a longstanding public health issue,” said Lia Spiliotes, CEO of Community Health Programs. “It’s not unique to the Berkshires, and we believe CHP can make an impact.”
CHP’s dental expansion is also feasible partly because on Jan. 1, the state increased MassHealth reimbursements by 65 percent, with certain “add-on” fees. These increased payments are specifically for dental care provided by community health centers like CHP.
“This increase is a long overdue first step, but it doesn’t include dental practices that are not federally funded health centers,” said Spiliotes. “CHP can’t meet this need alone, but we can make an impact.”
Dr. John Brazill, CHP director of dental medicine, said oral health is a factor in overall wellness.
“Lack of routine dental care can lead to loss of teeth, poor nutrition, poor self-esteem, and difficulties with employment and social interaction,” he said. “And dental problems can cause crippling pain, which can lead to opioid abuse.”
CHP has received an initial grant of $523,756 from the federal Health Services Resource Administration for the new practice in Adams. CHP will dedicate some of its own funds and additional public and private grants will be tapped over the course of this multi-year project.
CHP is also launching the #CHPSmile Project to help raise community and community contributions.
For information about the CHP dental expansion and the #CHPSmile Project, visit chpsmile.org/smile