Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
The staff of a new clinic several years in the making has been hard at work in its first week providing dental care on the top floor of the Atrium Mall. “We’ve been pretty busy this week,” Dr. Bob English, the new dentist at the Bullhook dental clinic in Havre, said Thursday. “We’ve seen probably 40 patients.” The clinic is part of the operations of the Bullhook Community Health Center and is part of its effort to increase and coordinate health care in the area. Funding and donations jump-start the clinic Bullhook was awarded a $185,000 grant from the state last year in the second round of awards in a program intended to increase dental care in Montana. The Havre clinic, which identified increasing dental care in the area as a primary goal shortly after its initial creation in 2005, was not selected in the first round of awards. Bullhook also had $85,000 from its federal funding to use for the creation of the clinic. Cindy Smith, Bullhook’s executive director, said many people, groups and businesses in the community and around the state came forward to help with the creation of the dental clinic, ranging from cash donations to donations of equipment, furniture and work, and discounts and donations of products to upgrade the space in the Atrium into a dental facility. “People were great about this,” Smith said. The state and federal funds and the generosity of the individuals, businesses and groups have allowed the creation of the clinic, which Smith said took a large amount of funds to get into operation. The clinic is open to all people, and also offers a sliding-fee scale depending on income. The minimum charge is $45 a visit, up to full charge for people with higher incomes. The clinic also accepts insurance payments, and as well as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which are not usable at some dental offices. Smith said the clinic should become self-supporting if enough people use its services the key is its being used, she said. While Bullhook receives federal funding to pay for the sliding- fee scale the government money offsets the cost difference the rest of the payments are what pay for the operation of the health center and the clinic, she saA full-service dental clinic English said that, so far, he has been able to take care of every patient who has come to the Bullhook dental clinic. “We have not turned anybody away yet,” he said. “I’ve seen everybody who walks through the door.” English, originally from Alaska, earned undergraduate degrees in chemistry, biochemistry and mathematics from the University of Alaska in Anchorage before receiving his dental degree from the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry in San Francisco. He also spent a year at Harvard doing post-doctorate work. He began practicing dentistry nearly 20 years ago and has practiced in California and Montana. He said that last fall he met Smith and became interested in the opportunity to work at the Havre clinic. “It sounded like a really good opportunity for me,” English said. He added that he has liked being in Havre while the geography is different, the people remind him of home. “The folks remind me of Alaska,” English said. “It’s very warm and welcoming. I feel pretty well at home here.” English has dived right into his work, and will participate in local work as well he is scheduled to participate in the children is dental screening clinics with other local dentists in April. Smith said English’s practice has fit right into the community so far. “He’s a great dentist and is good with people,” she said. The work being done at the clinic so far is fullservice care, with fillings, cleaning, crowns, root canals, pulling teeth and oral surgery part of the care offered. English said that while some procedures should probably be referred to specialists and some techniques cannot be offered yet, the services are likely to expand. That will be especially true when the next dentist, Michael Huff, who will receive his degree from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry in May, comes on board in June. “We’ll see all the patients,” English said. “We will do it if we can and if not we will have to send on (to other dentists), he said. The clinic is already staffed, with more workers on the way. Michael Huff’s mother, Kathy Huff, has already moved to Havre and is working as the clinic’s receptionist. Judy Keeling is working as a dental assistant, with Heather Wolf working as an assistant-intraining. The clinic also has a dental hygienist, Anna Hallgrimson, scheduled to start working today. Smith said the clinic also has a couple more workers scheduled to come to work once Huff arrives to start his work in Havre. She added that the highest priority, at least at first, will be in seeing children, pregnant women and people in pain due to dental problems. However, the clinic will schedule appointments for anyone as time is available, she said. A plethora of donations and work Smith said the community has come forward with a high level of support for the clinic, with the number of people contributing too long to list in full. A class at Montana State University-Northern did a fund-raising drive for the clinic, and community fund-raisers have also been held by Bullhook. Businesses, including NorthWestern Energy also have stepped forward with donations. Work by people on the Bullhook staff, including former public relations director Tina Petersen, was instrumental in getting the state and federal funds, Smith added. Donations of time, work, and equipment and furnishings also were crucial in the creation of the facility, she said. Smith said some of those contributors include local insurance agent Ruth Wolery, members of the Bullhook board of directors that board also oversees the operation of the dental clinic, work by Dan Whittaker, the MSU-Northern football team helping with the remodeling of the clinic, Barkus Homecenter giving a discount on paint and supplies, help from Valley furniture, the family of Scott Durward donating paint and helping with the remodeling, and the work of local contractors in getting the facility ready including Mike Holt and Schine Electric. The clinic is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, closed for lunch from noon to 1 p. m. Smith said people can call 265-3021 to make an appointment, and they should keep trying if they receive a busy signal or the phone isn’t answered at first the line is pretty busy, she said. “They need to be patient. There’s lots of people calling in,” Smith said.id.