ROANOKE, Va. — Reggie Atkins flashed a wide smile from the dentist’s chair, no longer inhibited by his missing front teeth. “Usually, I don’t smile,” Atkins said, explaining what it’s like to have a gum disease that has caused half of his teeth to fall out. “People look at you different.” All that changed on Wednesday, when Atkins learned that the dental care he had not been able to afford previously is now available at New Horizons Healthcare, a community health center in northwest Roanoke that treats the medically underserved at discounted rates.
After 14 years of providing primary health care to the low-income and uninsured, New Horizons is expanding its horizons by offering dental care. The clinic, which began seeing patients in November, held an open house today at its Melrose Avenue location. The operation, which is expected to see 1,200 patients in its first six months, will help fill a major void in the Roanoke Valley’s health care arena. Lack of affordable dental care is one of the greatest problems identified by a 2012 community health needs assessment. The report found that nearly half of the adults in the Roanoke area had not seen a dentist in the past two years.
New Horizons moved to its current location, a two-story brick building, as part of an expansion in October 2012. At the time, as part of a plan to offer dental care for the first time, eight examining rooms were included in the building’s design. But the rooms sat empty for more than two years until funding became available.
The clinic, which is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week, includes three part-time dentists, a registered dental hygienist, dental assistants and a front office staff. Plans are to bring in a full-time dentist.
For patients who qualify, there’s a sliding fee program based on their income. The clinic will also accept most dental insurance plans. The hope, Lepro said, is to make front-end, preventative care available to more people. If that happens, they may not wind up sitting in the same chair that Atkins occupied Wednesday.
New Horizons Healthcare is a federally-qualified health care provider serving the Roanoke, VA area. It provides uninsured, under-insured, and insured patients with high-quality, comprehensive and preventive healthcare. The 32,000 SF medical building encompasses family practice, pediatric care, a pharmacy and a dental clinic. The facility also provides a mental health services program.
Howard Shockey & Sons, Inc. was the general contractor and Baskervill was the architect.
Source: Laurence Hammack, The Roanoke Times