CHP’s new dental practice in Adams offers welcoming atmosphere, family services | Northern Berkshires

CHP Adams

Community Health Plan held an open house and ribbon-cutting celebration Wednesday at its dental office and family services location in Adams. It has started accepting patients and has a capacity of 700 patients.

ADAMS — Soon after Berkshire Community Health Plan opened a dental clinic in North Adams, its leaders realized how many patients were traveling north for dental care.

“We found that a large portion of our patients are located between Adams and North Adams, but it’s not always easy for them to travel from one location to the other,” said Nicole Wilkinson, director of dental operations at CHP Berkshires.

Nicole Wilkinson smiles into microphone

Nicole Wilkinson, director of dental operations for Community Health Plans, speaks Wednesday at the opening of CHP's new dental clinic and family services center in Adams. “We wanted it to have an inviting atmosphere, not like a lot of dental offices,” she said.

The new clinic at 19 Depot St. is called Adams Family Dental and Family Services, a name that reflects its broader mission of providing support services beyond dental care to underserved populations. It serves both pediatric and adult patients.

Given this clear need, and Adams' convenient location between central and northern Berkshire County, it made sense for CHP to open a clinic in Adams. The nonprofit celebrated the achievement Wednesday at an open house and ribbon-cutting event attended by local business and civic leaders.

People visit medical office

Visitors toured the facilities at Community Health Plan's new dental clinic and family services center in Adams on Wednesday. When fully staffed, the new clinic will have two dentists, a dental hygienist, four dental assistants and support staff.

Speakers include Select Board Chair Christine Hoyt, 1Berkshire President and CEO Jonathan Butler, CHP Board Chair Brian Drake and State Senator Paul Mark Constituency Services Director Casey Pease.

Brian Drake speaks into microphone

Brian Drake, president of the Community Health Plan Board of Directors, speaks Wednesday at the opening of CHP's new dental clinic and family services center in Adams. CHP launches a comprehensive plan to expand dental care in the Berkshires in 2021.

Wilkinson says a lot of effort is put into making the office welcoming and inclusive, especially for patients who are worried about going to the dentist because of fear of pain or judgment.

“We wanted it to have an inviting atmosphere, not like a lot of dental offices,” she said.

The nonprofit CHP invested $850,000 in the program with a grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration and donations from NBT Bank, the Agnes Lindsay Trust, the Barrett Family Foundation, the Feigenbaum Foundation and Delta Dental of Massachusetts.

When fully staffed, the new clinic, already operational, will be staffed by two dentists, a dental hygienist, four dental assistants and support staff. It has started accepting patients and has a capacity of 700 patients.

“In the month since we’ve been open, we’ve made a difference to hundreds of families and individuals,” CHP CEO Bethany Kieley said.

Wilkinson said there is currently a shortage of dental hygienists that dates back to the COVID-19 pandemic. The closest schools to train hygienists are in the Springfield area and New York state, and hygienists tend to work where they live, she said.

There is modern equipment here, including full digital X-ray and computer-driven disinfection equipment. There are also thoughtful touches such as a TV that the kids can watch while cleaning, a full-sized dental chair, and an office with a headrest that tilts back 180 degrees to facilitate care for patients who use wheelchairs.

dentist clinic

Community Health Project's new dental clinic in Adams features updated space and state-of-the-art equipment, including full digital X-rays and computer-driven sterilization equipment to ensure sterility of instruments.

“I saw a community here that deserved better access to dental care and treatment in an up-to-date, beautiful facility by a team as passionate about patient care as I am,” Wilkinson said.

CHP also has dental clinics in North Adams, Pittsfield and Great Barrington (with plans to expand in the latter), as well as mobile dental clinics.

With a shortage of dental care professionals and fewer dentists accepting insurance under MassHealth's dental care reimbursement rates, the organization launched a comprehensive plan in 2021 to expand dental care in the Berkshires. Wilkinson said that while reimbursement at federally qualified medical centers has improved, rates are still lower than those offered by private insurance companies.

There are 2,000 to 2,500 MassHealth subscribers in Adams and another 2,000 in North Adams, according to Wilkinson.

These patients often underutilize dental services, Wilkinson said. “It's a little bit of a fear, a little bit of a priority…A lot of people have dental insurance but don't take advantage of it. They don't see the importance of it.”

But Wilkinson points out that there is a strong connection between dental health and overall health.

“If you have a low-grade infection in your mouth for many years, it can affect other parts of your body,” she says. “We're treating the whole patient.”

The practice also includes a Family Services branch that provides free food distribution to area residents on the first and third Tuesday of each month from 1 to 2:30 p.m., with plans to begin in late June Farmers Market – This is part of this non-profit organization.

Interior of home service location

The shelves at Community Health Program’s new dental clinic and family services center in Adams are stocked with food, clothing and other resources.

But its services extend far beyond food insecurity: It also provides diapers, children's books, children's and adult clothing swaps and other assistance to area families.

Lorie Bolte, of North Adams, works in the office helping families in need. A former foster and adoptive parent who served in the U.S. Army, she describes herself as “an aide.”

“I talk to them … I need to understand what they want and what their needs are,” Bolt said. “I can connect them to rehab if they need it. I can help them fill out housing applications.”

“If someone needs it, I will deliver groceries to their house because they don't have transportation,” she added. “I go above and beyond because I know I don't know everyone's story. And I'm not judging anyone.”

Both Butler and Hoyt expressed appreciation for Berkshire Hathaway's investment in Adams and the additional services it will provide in maintaining and improving the health of residents.

Butler said providing health care options is a “boost” in attracting workers as the region grapples with workforce challenges.

“CHP is one of the organizations that has taken a key leadership role in addressing this issue and the impact has been huge,” he said. “The new resources in Adams and other communities have made a difference. It makes us a better place for families to live. “

Hoyt added that the new approach “will have a positive impact on our community, especially the health of our residents.”

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