As reported by The Hartford Courant, October 27, 2005.

Grant to Fund Dental Clinic Expansion

By Garret Condon

The Anthem Foundation will give $350,000 to double the dental care space at Hartford's Charter Oak Health Center, providing additional dentist chairs for low-income city residents and expanded education opportunities for University of Connecticut dental students.

Alfreda D. Turner, president and CEO of the community health center, said that she was "grateful for the vision of Anthem" in helping to bankroll a collaboration between UConn and the center. "It's an opportunity for us to expand our dental clinic, which is only one portion of our health center," she said.

Dr. Peter J. Robinson, dean of the UConn School of Dental Medicine in Farmington, called it a "win, win, win situation."

The Grand Street clinic currently has six dental chairs and serves about 6,500 dental patients annually. Robinson said that the hope is that the Anthem money - which goes to the University of Connecticut Foundation - will allow UConn to double the number of dental chairs at the community clinic by next summer.

He said that UConn hopes to raise $1 million in order to create as many as 24 dental treatment rooms and to quadruple the number of dental patients who come through the door.

The UConn dental school has dental students, residents and faculty members in 11 community clinics in Connecticut who provide care alongside staff dentists.

David R. Fusco, president of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Connecticut, said that expanding Charter Oak's capacity addresses a major dental-health access problem.

"We hope our support of the University of Connecticut, in collaboration with the Charter Oak Health Center, will inspire other organizations to join us in helping reduce dental health disparities across Connecticut," he said.

Most health center patients are Medicaid recipients who often have trouble finding private dentists willing to take Medicaid reimbursement, according to Robinson. Private dentists lose money on every Medicaid patient they treat, he said.

"There are dentists that routinely see Medicaid patients," he said, "but their numbers are small." He said he hoped that the clinic experience would lead UConn-trained dentists to continue to devote some of their time to community clinics.

Turner noted that the Charter Oak center is poised to occupy the entire 56,000 square feet of the four-floor building where it has shared space since 1995. The additional square footage will provide room for new dental areas and allow for the expansion of other programs as well.

The Anthem Foundation, established in 2001, awards grants in communities served by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, a health insurer that is a subsidiary of WellPoint Inc.