PITTSBURG, Kan. — The Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas on Wednesday was awarded a $300,000 federal grant to expand dental services and oral health care to residents in Southeast Kansas.

That follows a $650,000 grant announcement made last week to expand health care services to residents in Miami and Wyandotte in Northeast Oklahoma, said Krista Postai, CEO of the center.

The Community Health Center operates in a 10-county region in Southeast Kansas, including clinics in Pittsburg, Baxter Springs, Columbus and Fort Scott, serving 70,000 people a year, regardless of insurance or economic status.

"We are going to drastically expand our dental clinic," Postai said, adding that oral health remains one of the biggest unmet needs in the region for both children and adults.

She said the $300,000 grant will allow the center to enhance general dentistry, oral surgery and pediatric dentistry services currently offered at the Pittsburg clinic, 3011 N. Michigan, and better integrate with medical, dental and mental health services.

"You will be able to walk out of the (medical) exam room and into a dental chair if you need to," she said. "It's making it a one-stop shop."

The grant on Wednesday was one of nearly 300 announced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration, totaling about $85 million in all. Many of the grants went to underserved urban and rural areas.

The awards can be used for minor alterations and renovations to modernize existing centers, for purchase and installation of dental and radiology equipment, for training and consultation to increase oral health integration, and for purchase of mobile dental units to increase access to oral health care in hard-to-reach parts of communities.

“Health centers play a key role in providing access to a comprehensive range of services Americans need to stay healthy, and that includes high quality oral health care,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. “Early detection of oral diseases can prevent much more costly health challenges and improve Americans’ health."

On Sept. 11, that same federal agency also announced a $650,000 grant for the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas that Postai said will be used to open a clinic in Miami, Oklahoma, and a school-based health center in Wyandotte, Oklahoma.

She said that last year more than 1,200 people from Ottawa County went to the center's health clinic in Baxter Springs.

"We attract a lot of people from over the border in Oklahoma and Missouri," she said.

Postai also said they have 120 days to open the clinics, and are working to tab a location and find staff.

"We will be open in time for the new year," she added.

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