By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
PITTSFIELD, Ill. -- After years of hearing the same question, Pike County Health Department Administrator Anita Andress finally has the answer.
A new "safety net" dental clinic could open by January in Pittsfield, and maybe sooner.
A purchase agreement signed March 8 will transfer the Quincy Medical Group clinic at 606 W. Adams to the Health and Wellness Foundation of Pike County and onto the Health Department for the dental clinic.
Plans call for the department to take possession by mid-August after QMG moves into a new facility in Pittsfield.
"Everything's on schedule," LouAnne Mowen, QMG's senior director of rural health, said. "The contractors will be done in June. We plan to move in early July."
Contractors were hanging drywall last week in the new building which will consolidate services from QMG's Pittsfield Clinic and Pike County Family Practice in a 20,000-square-foot clinic on part of the former Brown Shoe factory site just off the downtown square.
All current QMG services in Pittsfield still will be provided, just under one roof. New services, including infusion and expanded behavioral health, also will be available.
With X-ray, mammography and ultrasound services now available in only one of the Pittsfield sites, Mowen said the centralized location means patients will not have to travel across town for those servies.
"It's much easier to walk down the hall," Mowen said. "Instead of a lab in both buildings, we'll have one nice big lab."
QMG bought the site from the foundation, which initially planned to build a multipurpose healthcare facility to serve several agencies, including the Health Department and the dental clinic. When circumstances forced the foundation to redirect its efforts, it sold the site to QMG, in part for financial considerations on the 606 Adams property for the dental clinic.
"It's not Plan A, but we think Plan B is pretty great," said Patty McIntosh, the foundation's executive director. "Our main objective was how do we get a dental clinic in Pike County. That goal we have been able to achieve."
"The most important thing is that we provide a safety net dental clinic for the Pike County children, so as long as we have a place to do that it doesn't really matter if it's new or 20 to 30 years old as long as it's a safe, clean building," Andress said.
Equipment and furniture for the new clinic already has been bought from one that closed in Quincy. It is in storage.
Andress said the department will work with Quincy architect Monte Stock on minor renovations.
"It's really set up perfectly for a dental clinic," she said. "We will be pulling together the bid process soon."
More than 2,000 Pike County children up to age 21 have a medical card but little access to dental care. The county has one dentist who accepts Medicaid patients, but he has not taken new patients in 10 years.
The Health Department currently refers children to clinics in Adams, Cass and Hancock counties for dental care, but transportation is a barrier.
"Having it right here will make it so much more accessible to our families," Andress said. "They're going without at this point if they can't get to those other clinics."
Plans call for meeting with a local dentist in April to talk about recruiting. Applications already are coming in for hygienists and assistants.
Some dentists want to live and work in rural areas, Andress said, and the county also can offer a loan repayment option through the National Health Service Corps.
A Quincy Medical Group clinic site may house more in the future than a long-awaited safety net dental clinic.
Pike County Health Department Administrator Anita Andress said the building at 606 W. Adams may play a part in the department's future. The Health Department is now housed in a former grocery store.
"(The Adams site) is not quite big enough for the Health Department unless we could figure out some creative way to get all of our services in there, but the building has a lot of additional nice space to offer," Andress said. "The long-term plan is to be all under one roof. At this point, we would probably have to add on, and the funds are not there."