The U.S. Department of the Interior has given the OK to the St. Thomas East End Medical Center Corporation to renovate about 3,000 square feet of space next to the center court of Tutu Park Mall and outfit it with five dental chairs and supporting equipment, an increase from the two chairs the center currently utilizes.
The expansion was announced in a news release issued Tuesday by Monife Stout of the medical center.
The renovations are funded by a $562,250 capital improvement grant awarded by the Department of Interior for dental and clinical services expansion. As the only federally qualified health center in the St. Thomas/St. John district, STEEMCC has seen an increase in patient load for dental care from 300 in 2009 to more than 2,700 in 2015.
The expansion will address the increased and increasing demand for oral health services by increasing dental staff and improving access to preventive services for all patients, especially those in vulnerable and unserved/underserved populations, Stout said in Tuesday’s news release. Barriers that prevent most from seeking oral health/dental services include lack of insurance (including Medicaid), limited dental providers, and separation of oral health from overall health care.
“We are extremely grateful to receive the authorization to proceed with this extremely critical project of expanding oral health services to our community," said Executive Director Moleto A. Smith Jr. "Dental services, as well as behavioral health services, are critical to a person’s wellness. And we are fully committed to addressing these longstanding community needs. We thank our federal partners and look forward to working collaboratively with everyone to serve our community,” Smith said.
Renovation work should begin in December or January and the work is expected to be completed in February.