Oak Orchard welcomes new mobile dental unit that will go to Orleans County school districts

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 October 2022 at 9:27 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Oak Orchard Health cuts the ribbon on a new mobile dental unit that will be going to the five school districts in Orleans County – Albion, Holley, Kendall, Lyndonville and Medina.

The unit is currently based at Oak Orchard’s Albion site on Route 31.

Pictured from left include: Assemblyman Steve Hawley; Karen Watt, chairwoman of the board for Oak Orchard; Karen Kinter, interim CEO for Oak Orchard; Rachel Nozzi, chief of dentistry for Oak Orchard; John Craik, program officer for the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation (which provided $650,000 for the project); and Erica Wenner, director of constituent services for State Sen. Rob Ortt.

The Mother Cabrini Health Foundation reached out to Oak Orchard about funding the new unit because the organization wanted to target dental services for children in a rural area, Craik said. The $650,000 more than covered the cost of the new unit and some of those funds will go towards staffing.

“New York State has been lagging behind in oral health, especially in the rural areas,” Craik said.

Craik commended the Oak Orchard staff for running the program and providing the service.

“You guys are the real heroes who are doing the work,” he said during the ribbon-cutting.

Denise Beardsley stands inside the new mobile unit, which replaces one from 2005. Beardsley has been coordinator of the program since it started 17 years ago.

The mobile unit hasn’t been to a local school since March 2020, when the Covid pandemic hit. Beardsley said the last day the unit was in action was March 13, 2020.

The mobile unit includes two treatment rooms (operatories), an X-ray station and a wheelchair lift. Children will be able to get teeth cleaned and get fillings. If there are many cavities, they will likely be referred to a pediatric dentist.

Karen Kinter, interim CEO for Oak Orchard, said Oak Orchard is grateful for the new mobile dental unit and looks forward to bringing the service back to local school districts. Albion will be the first stop in late October. In the past the site has been at Albion for about two months before going to the next district. The schedule for all five isn’t set, and depends on the demand at each district.

Oak Orchard will distributing flyers to students in the elementary school at Albion with consent forms for parents and guardians.

The cost is typically covered through Child Health Plus, Medicaid or other health insurance. A sliding-scale payment plan also is available for adults who may have access to the mobile unit in the summers or through the new dental office opening next month in Albion. Oak Orchard has taken over the former All Smiles site at the corner of South Main Street and Allen Road.

Denise Beardsley, left, gives a tour of the new mobile unit to Kevin Watson, a principal at Kendall Central School, and Sharon Smith, superintendent of Lyndonville Central School.

The new unit is also drive-able where the previous one had to be towed to each site. The unit will be parked outside the elementary schools at the local school districts.

Brian Bartalo, Holley school superintendent, is pleased to have the program return this school year.

“We’re excited to have it back,” he said. “We excited for the partnership.”

Nick Picardo, Kendall school superintendent, also is thankful Oak Orchard is bringing the service right to the school districts so families don’t have to travel for dental care.

“Anything for our kids,” he said.