Several years ago, community members in Bemidji, Minn. realized the need for a dental health facility that would serve underprivileged and at-risk families. In December of 2008, that realization became reality when the doors of the Northern Access Dental Center opened to the public.
The Northern Access Dental Center serves people in Beltrami county and nearby areas, which includes three American Indian reservations. Because a large percentage of this northwestern Minnesotan population falls under the legal poverty line, the volume of people requiring assistance provided by this new facility was vastly underestimated.
With 17,000 people in the area enrolled in Minnesota Health Care Programs such as Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare, an expansion of the facility was badly needed. An increasing number of volunteers and contractual dentists also became interested in contributing time and expertise.
With the help of a grant through USDA Rural Development’s Community Facilities Program, the Northern Dental Access Center was able to increase its patient capacity by 30 percent. The Center now sees approximately 70 or more patients each day. The facility is also able to maintain three to four contract and volunteer dentists daily, Monday through Friday.
“Our field representatives for Rural Development were just wonderful,” said Jeanne Edevold Larson, the Dental Center’s Executive Director. “We have changed lives here, and I really hope our representatives know how much their hard work is appreciated.”
After building partnerships with other community and state organizations for over 10 years, the access center also increased its on-site partnership services. These include nutrition counseling with the University of Minnesota Extension; children’s mental health screening through Beltrami Area Service Collaborative; insurance counseling available through Community Resource Connections, and many more.
“If we can help our patients in other aspects of their lives, by providing a variety of services, we believe that it will help improve our dental care services,” Edevold Larson said.
For more information about the Northern Dental Access Center, its partnerships, and services, visit the website www.northerndentalaccess.org or call 218-444-9646.