January 15, 2014
FHN moves dental services to Moravia
Family Health Network will begin accepting patients at new facility next week
Family Health Network of Central New York has closed its Groton Avenue dental location as it begins its transition to a modern facility in Moravia, a change that comes nine years after Cortland County struggled to supply the dental needs of residents with Medicaid coverage.
“The reason it was brought into Cortland was there was identified in 2004 that there were very few, if none, dental providers in the area who provided Medicaid services,” said FHN CEO Walter Priest.
Priest said that changes in what dental providers receive Medicaid has factored into the decision to move dental services to Moravia, as the number of dentists accepting the coverage has grown in the county.
“We have been monitoring what’s been happening with Medicaid dental services because that’s part of our charge,” Priest said. “We have like 10 providers that are willing to take Medicaid out there.”
Kim Osborne, the vice president of operations at FHN, has led the transition to Moravia.
Officials decided in October to move after six months of discussion and approval from federal agencies that provide grants.
“We do get grants from the federal government but they’re contingent on us doing what we’re supposed to and being in the area and servicing the people we need to,” Priest said.
The need in Moravia and other similarly rural areas can be a target location for services for FHN, as well as impoverished urban centers.
“There’s not a dentist in a fifteen mile radius up in Moravia,” Osborne said.
The facility in Moravia will begin accepting dental patients Jan. 20, as well as continuing the medical services already available. Located at 23 Central St., the Moravia Health Center opened at that location in February of 2011.
FHN intends to continue providing care to Cortland residents, according to a Jan. 3 news release.
The Moravia facility is about 19 miles northeast of the Groton Avenue location it replaces.
Opened in 2005, the Groton Avenue facility was designed to meet a growing need in the city.
That facility opened after Family Health Network moved its dental clinic from Groton. The clinic in Groton had been open for a decade before moving to Groton Avenue.
Despite the change in location, the Moravia clinic will provide the same range of dental services offered by the previous FHN location.
All told, the cost of the new equipment for the dental facility will be about $80,000.
FHN sent out letters to the patients at the Groton Avenue location, less than 2,000 total, notifying them of the change. Overall there has been only a limited response from those affected by the changes, Priest said.
“We’ve had a few patients that are disheartened that we’re moving,” Priest said. “For a few individuals, there will be a greater challenge getting out to Moravia.”
Osborne said that housing the dental services in Moravia will allow dental and medical services to work closely together for patients.
“The nice part is too, now, where the services are in Moravia it’s in conjunction with our medical services so there are a lot of referrals that will go back and forth,” Osborne said.
County Health Director Catherine Feuerherm said she was assured by FHN that its analysis showed the move would not result in a decrease in service.
“I think there will be adequate coverage for the treatment side,” Feuerherm said. “The preventative side of dental care is not well accessed in the county.”
Studies in the region seem to indicate that county residents may not seek, or be able to afford, the preventative care that protects oral health.
According to the 2013 edition of Cortland Counts, an annual assessment of the county’s health from Seven Valleys Health Coalition, 27.7 percent of county residents over 65 years of age have had all permanent teeth removed due to decay or gum disease. That mark is 8.3 percent higher than the state average and 11.9 percent higher than the state average excluding New York City.
“That speaks to preventative dental care,” Feuerherm said.
Adding fluoride to municipal water could help prevent some of that decay, a practice no municipality in the county uses, Feuerherm said. When the city Water Board proposed putting fluoride in the city’s water in 2003, the measure was defeated by the Common Council and it has not been addressed since.
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