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Filling a need: New Binghamton clinic promises to make dental care more accessible, affordable

By Toby Sells Memphis Commercial Appeal

Posted February 2, 2011  

Christ Community Health Services will open its new $1 million dental facility in March at the Broad Avenue site of its former administrative offices.

The 7,000-square-foot facility was paid for through a $1.42 million grant Christ Community received from federal stimulus funds in 2009.

Christ Community, a local network of clinics for the poor and uninsured, spent about $500,000 of the funds to establish a dental clinic at its Hickory Hill facility last year.

Construction on the new facility at 2953 Broad began last May and concluded in December. It has 11 exam-and-treatment stations equipped with the latest dental chairs and equipment, said Dr. Orpheus Triplett, Christ Community's dental director.

"We've always known that there exists socioeconomic disparities among individuals receiving proper oral health care," Triplett said. "So, we've seen the need to actually bring the services to the people."

Christ Community has offered dental services since 2000, said Burt Waller, Christ Community's executive director. But they were "intermittent and we didn't really have anyone of (Triplett's) experience" until he joined in 2005 and became the medical director in 2008.

"(Since then) we've realized that the lack of dental care is really a much greater problem than the lack of medical care," Waller said. "If you're uninsured and have a low income, you have virtually no options for dental care without spending a lot of money."

Affordability is one barrier to accessing dental care Christ Community hopes to combat with the new facility, Waller said. Its patients will pay on a sliding scale based on their incomes.

The other access barrier to battle is, simply, location, Triplett said. Low-income patients mostly won't go to a dental clinic out of their reach.

The new facility is just a few doors down from a Christ Community medical clinic in the Binghamton neighborhood. Clinicians there will recommend that their patients go to the dental office and vice versa.

It's "kind of a tag-team thing," Triplett said.

Christ Community bought the building where the dental clinic now stands in 1999. The nonprofit organization moved its main medical clinic to its new Broad Avenue location in 2002.

The building was vacant for two years until Christ Community made it administrative offices in 2005. Those offices moved to a new building at Central and Hollywood in 2007.

The property sat vacant until the dental facility's construction project began last year.

"It was an old, rundown building, so it had very little market value in a neighborhood where there's very little demand for property," Waller said.

-- Toby Sells: 529-2742

Christ Community Health Services new dental facility

Opens: March 2011

Architect: Fleming Associates Architects

Contractor: Grinder, Taber & Grinder Inc.

Address: 2953 Broad Ave.


Nikki Boertman/The Commercial Appeal

"We've seen the need to actually bring the services to the people," says Dr. Orpheus Triplett (right), with Christ Community executive director Burt Waller.