Site will add 15 new dental chairs, expanded access for community
OKLAHOMA CITY — To help address Oklahoma's poor oral health rankings, Variety Care has broken ground on a 8,000-square-foot Dental Center of Excellence that will add 15 new dental chairs to its Straka Family Health Center in South Oklahoma City.
The $4.3 million project will bring the total number of dental operatories at the Straka site to 21, making it one of the largest dental clinics in the state.
“Oklahoma struggles with many health outcomes, but one of the most challenging is oral health,” said Lou Carmichael, Variety Care CEO. “The most non-urgent diagnosis in hospital emergency rooms is tooth pain. Dental care is central to primary care and keeping families healthy, but it is also tough for people to afford. Our dental expansion at the Straka location will help keep people's mouths healthy.”
Variety Care provides comprehensive primary care to Oklahoma families, including medical, dental, optometric and behavioral health care. Most insurances are accepted, and uninsured patients pay cash for care along a sliding-fee scale based on income and family size.
“Every time we build a standard three-chair dental clinic at one of our health centers, the schedule fills up within a week and a waiting list forms,” Carmichael said. “Variety Care receives hundreds of calls each month for dental patients we cannot fit into our existing schedules. This Dental Center of Excellence will let us hire additional dentists and hygienists, and it will feature extra dental chairs for emergency walk-in patients and student rotations for workforce development.”
The project is largely financed through an investment of New Markets Tax Credits facilitated by Cherokee Nation Businesses.
“Variety Care is creating jobs and making the kinds of critical investments that will help improve access to health care,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “There is no issue more important to me and to the Cherokee people than affordable health care. I am proud a portion of our Cherokee Nation Businesses New Markets Tax Credits will be used to help an organization dedicated to that same mission.”
Inasmuch Foundation, the United Way of Central Oklahoma and The Wilshire Foundation have also provided grant money to support initial operations of Variety Care's new dental center and keep costs affordable for patients.
“With access to high-quality and affordable dental care extremely limited in our community, we are pleased to partner with Variety Care to build this new dental center in Oklahoma City,” said Bob Ross, President and CEO of Inasmuch Foundation. “Prior to this grant, we have worked with Variety Care on several health improvement projects, and their board really knows how to stretch a dollar so can it serve the most people possible. I am excited to see this new dental center and the impact it will have on so many lives for years to come.”
In addition to dental care, the expansion will also pave the way for an urgent care area at the health center, as well as a gastroenterology practice. Of the 21 dental chairs planned for Variety Care's Straka site, six will focus on pediatric dental care and the other 15 will focus primarily on adults.
“There is a two-front battle in dental care,” Carmichael said. “First, many adults have significant dental needs because they have neglected oral health care over the years. But, second, we have to break this cycle by making sure children are developing healthy dental habits. We need parents to understand just how important dental visits are for kids as early as 1 year of age.”
Cherokee Nation Businesses has been supporting numerous projects across Oklahoma through new markets tax credits investment.
“We are pleased to help spur economic development in Oklahoma and improve health infrastructure through our involvement with organizations like Variety Care,” said Shawn Slaton, CEO of Cherokee Nation Businesses. “Variety Care's health centers are truly making a difference in the lives of our fellow Oklahomans, and we're grateful to have a hand in getting this project off the ground.”
About Variety Care: (www.VarietyCare.org)
Variety Care is a non-profit community health center with locations in Oklahoma City, Norman, Del City, Tipton, Fort Cobb, Grandfield and Thomas. Variety Care saw more than 57,000 people in 2012, providing primary medical, dental, vision and behavioral health care with multiple services at some sites. A United Way partner agency, Variety Care serves patients with insurance and without insurance and strives to make health care affordable and accessible for all patients. The Variety Care Foundation provides philanthropic support and community awareness for Variety Care and its efforts.
About Cherokee Nation Businesses (www.CherokeeNationBusinesses.com)
Cherokee Nation Businesses is the tribally-owned holding company of the Cherokee Nation, the largest Indian Nation in the United States. The Cherokee Nation and its businesses employ 9,000 people. CNB owns companies in the gaming, hospitality, information technology, personnel services, distribution, manufacturing, telecommunications, environmental services and security and defense industries.