DUANESBURG — Hometown Health Centers, a regional health care provider with offices in Schenectady and Amsterdam, is looking to form a partnership with the Duanesburg Central School District that will provide students with free preventive dental care.
The organizations signed a memorandum of understanding last month that will allow Hometown Health Centers to use the district’s two school buildings to host a series of small clinics that will provide “limited oral care services” to the district’s 633 students. Hometown Health is waiting for final approval from the state before moving forward with the clinics, but officials hope the program could begin as soon as January.
“We reached out to [the Duanesburg Central School District] because I think there’s a need for the kids and because they really don’t have dental providers they can go to,” said Yana Pasquarella, director of the Dental Assistance Program for Community Health Centers.
The outreach program would be new to Duanesburg, but has existed through a partnership with the Schenectady City School District for 50 years, according to Pasquarella, who noted that hygienists with the health center have set up clinics in 18 city schools throughout the school year, providing dozens of appointments .
Duanesburg’s program would mirror the one already in place in Schenectady schools: Parents would be required to fill out a permission slip for their children to receive care, and students would be pulled from class throughout the day, possibly at during a free period, in an order for treatment with a hygienist.
Payment will be through a family insurance provider, but will be provided free of charge to those without medical insurance, according to Pasquarella.
Treatment will focus solely on preventative measures and include screenings, cleanings, molar sealants, topical fluoride treatments, and education for students and parents, according to Pasquarella.
Students who require additional services will be referred to one of Hometown Health Centers’ dental offices.
“It’s just preventative work,” Pasquarella said. “We will refer them to their hometown health centers if they need treatment, or to their private dentist if they have one.”
It’s unclear how many Duanesburg students are without health insurance, although 23 percent, or 145 students, are considered “economically disadvantaged,” according to state Department of Education data from the 2020-21 school year, the most recent available.
Stephanie Jauchler, a Duanesburg High School nurse who worked to get the dental clinics in place at the school, said even if families have insurance, accessing a doctor can be difficult, especially in a rural area like Duanesburg.
“For some of these families, this may be their only chance to see a dentist and get their kids teeth cleaners, dental sealants and things that are just going to improve their overall health tremendously,” 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 in part by a $4 million grant from the County Schenectady.
“I’m very excited that they’re here,” Jauchler said. “It’s really good to get them checked because cavities can cause all kinds of problems with a child’s mouth and cause pain and infections that would keep the child out of school for a while.”
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.
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