DUANESBURG — Hometown Health Centers, a regional medical provider with offices in Schenectady and Amsterdam, is seeking to form a partnership with the Duanesburg Central School District that would provide students with free preventative dental care.
The organizations signed a memorandum of understanding last month that would allow Hometown Health Centers to use the district’s two school buildings to host a series of small clinics that would provide “limited oral care services” for the district’s 633 students. Hometown Health is waiting on final state approval before proceeding with the clinics, but officials are hopeful the program can begin as early as January.
“We reached out to [the Duanesburg Central School District] because I think the need for the children is there and because they really don’t have dental providers out there that they can go to,” said Jana Pasquarella, director of the Dental Outreach Program for Hometown Health Centers.
The outreach program would be new for Duanesburg, but has existed through a partnership with the Schenectady City School District for 50 years, according to Pasquarella, who noted hygienists with the health center set up clinics in 18 city schools throughout the academic year, providing dozens of appointments.
The Duanesburg program would mirror the one already in place at Schenectady schools: parents would be required to fill out a permission slip for their child to receive care, and students would be pulled out of class throughout the day, likely during a free period, in order to be treated by a hygienist.
Payment would be through a family’s insurance provider, but would be provided at no cost to those without medical insurance, according to Pasquarella.
Treatment would focus solely on preventive measures and include screenings, cleanings, molar sealants, topical fluoride treatments, as well as education for students and parents, according to Pasquarella.
Students that require additional services would be referred to one of Hometown Health Centers dental offices.
“It’s only preventative work,” Pasquarella said. “We will refer them to Hometown Health Centers if they need treatment or to their own private dentist if they have one.”
It’s unclear how many Duanesburg students are without medical insurance, though 23%, or 145 students, were considered “economically disadvantaged,” according to state Department of Education data from the 2020-21 academic year, the most recent available.
Stephanie Yauchler, a nurse at Duanesburg High School who has been working to bring the dental clinics to the school, said that even if families do have insurance, access to a doctor can be difficult, particularly in a rural area like Duanesburg.
“For some of these families, it might be their only chance to see a dentist and get their kids some dental cleans, dental sealants and things that will just improve their overall health immensely,” she said.
Hometown Health Centers is in the process of expanding its dental practice in Schenectady, where construction is underway to convert an old Rite Aid building at the corner of State Street and Brandywine Boulevard into a dental clinic, an effort funded partly by a $4 million grant from Schenectady County.
“I’m very excited to have them here,” Yauchler said. “It’s a really good thing to get them checked out because cavities can cause all kinds of issues with a child’s mouth, and cause pain and infections that would cause a child to be out of school for awhile.”
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.
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