RCCHC breaks ground on dental clinic

Published 3:23 pm Friday, August 11, 2023

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AULANDER – Everyone was all smiles here Tuesday as they gathered in the open field which will soon become the home of a new dental clinic to serve the local area.

A groundbreaking event was held on Aug. 8 to mark the upcoming construction of Dental Integrated Care of Aulander, which is a part of Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center (RCCHC). The site is located at 312 South Pine Drive, Aulander.

Deborah Morrison, who serves as RCCHC’s Board Chair, welcomed the crowd to the event, noting that it was taking place during National Community Health Center Week.

“This is an opportunity to highlight the commitment and passion of community health center staff, board members, and our supporters, who make it possible for us to provide quality comprehensive healthcare services in our community,” she said.

RCCHC CEO Kim Schwartz expressed her joy about seeing the project move forward to its construction phase, especially after the group has worked so long to make it a reality.

“This was our third try for federal support to get a dental clinic in Bertie County. Third time was a charm,” Schwartz said.

The funding for the project is through the federal Capital Assistance for Disaster Response and Recovery Efforts (CADRE), which helps support access to high quality primary care services in areas impacted by natural disasters in 2018 or 2019. Bertie County, which suffered extensive flooding from major hurricanes during that time period, qualified for the funds.

Additional funding came from a federal allocation secured by former North Carolina District 1 Congressional Representative G.K. Butterfield, and supported by current Congressional Representative Don Davis. The Community Health Grant program from the NC General Assembly also provided funding for the dental staff.

“The need for dental services in eastern North Carolina – actually, in all of North Carolina – is really drastic,” Schwartz emphasized.

In her remarks, she also recognized several people in attendance who have helped with all aspects of the project, including Aulander’s Town Council, current and former Bertie County Commissioners, and Ford Grant who serves as director of ECU’s School of Dental Medicine site in Ahoskie.

Aulander Mayor Pro-Tem Bryan Morings spoke briefly to express his gratitude to RCCHC for choosing the town to host their new facility.

County Commissioner Corey Ballance called the groundbreaking event a “joyous occasion” and said it’s another great step to building a better Bertie.

“The establishment of this dental facility in our county is a testament to the spirit of collaboration, determination, and foresight that characterizes Bertie County,” Ballance said.

“We are not merely constructing a physical building,” he continued. “We are laying the foundation for healthier lives, improving access to quality healthcare, and enhancing educational opportunities for generations to come.”

Dr. Terry Hall, an RCCHC Board member and local dentist, recalled that when he opened his practice in Ahoskie in 1986, there were several dentists practicing throughout the Roanoke-Chowan area. Today, that number has grown smaller. He also recognized that many previous dentists continued practicing into their 70s and 80s because they wanted to ensure that dental care was available for everyone.

“I just want to salute all of the current dentists and their loyal staff for their faithfulness and continuous efforts to provide quality dental care to the citizens of Bertie and Hertford counties,” he said. “It is the goal of this dental clinic to continue this tradition of dedicated service established by the current and previous dentists.”

Dr. Hall also pointed out that maintaining good oral health also plays a crucial role in a person’s overall health and wellbeing.

The new facility will be an integrated dental and medical health facility where patients can get all their necessary care in one place.

“This will be a haven of health. A place where smiles are restored, confidence is rekindled, and lives are positively impacted,” Dr. Hall concluded.

The facility, which will be constructed by C.A. Lewis, Inc., will include eight dental operatories and other offices. It will be staffed by two dentists, two hygienists, and other healthcare providers. Other RCCHC services will be accessible at the Aulander site as well.

Like other RCCHC sites, this dental care clinic will operate on a sliding fee scale program to make dental care more affordable.

Schwartz told the News Herald that they are planning to be ready to open by early Fall 2024.