ABINGDON, Va., Aug. 2, 2022 — The newly established Wellspring Foundation of Southwest Virginia presented its first contribution to the region today with a grant to Appalachian Highlands Community Dental Center (AHCDC) of Abingdon, Virginia.
Wellspring’s funding of $500,000 for the expansion of AHCDC’s clinic was awarded to the organization in a presentation ceremony in Abingdon. In addition to Wellspring’s support, the Virginia Health Care Foundation (VHCF) donated $100,000 and Jan Hurt of Abingdon provided $50,000.
AHCDC provides effective and affordable oral healthcare to underserved and uninsured individuals and families in 11 counties throughout Southwest Virginia. Sixty percent of the clinic’s patients reside in Wellspring’s service footprint of Washington, Grayson, Russell and Smyth counties.
Funding from the Wellspring Foundation will allow AHCDC to acquire much-needed additional equipment and begin construction to expand its existing facility this fall. Once construction is completed in 2023, the clinic will be positioned to bring in additional dental residents and serve more patients throughout the region.
“We are delighted to partner with Appalachian Highlands Community Dental Center as our first grant recipient,” said Bill Hayter, chair of the Wellspring Foundation of Southwest Virginia Board of Directors. “Today’s announcement aligns perfectly with our mission of engaging in purposeful partnerships that enhance the quality of life for residents in our service area.”
Sean McMurray, executive director of the Wellspring Foundation of Southwest Virginia, noted that the regional need for the kind of services AHCDC provides is consistently high.
“The ratio of dentists per person in our region is 32 per 100,000 residents,” McMurray said. “That’s approximately half of the available resources in other areas of the Commonwealth. The opportunity for AHCDC to expand and meet more of the demand for dental care is one that brings immediate benefit to the people of our region, and we’re very excited to join with the Virginia Health Care Foundation and Jan Hurt in fostering AHCDC’s reach and impact.”
AHCDC is the principal training site for Johnston Memorial Hospital’s Advanced Education in General Dentistry (AEGD) residency program, which provides a 12-month hands-on experience to recent dental school graduates. The program, which is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), accepted its first dental resident in 2020. Residents gain clinical expertise and academic training, while providing dental care to uninsured Southwest Virginians.
“We are honored and thrilled to receive this funding from the Wellspring Foundation,” said Scott Miller, D.D.S., site director of AHCDC. “We see patients from various backgrounds who have struggled with confidence, securing employment, or additional health issues such as diabetes or obesity because they have not had access to affordable and quality dental care. This expansion will enable us to acquire more equipment, and install additional dental operatories and a larger dental lab, along with increasing our number of dental residents to nine. We are beyond grateful to Wellspring Foundation of Southwest Virginia, Virginia Health Care Foundation and Jan Hurt for their support.”
The expansion represents the first phase of increasing access for patients and boosting the services offered by AHCDC. In 2021, AHCDC served 3,645 patients, equating to a savings of nearly $2.5 million. By 2026, the clinic plans to treat 10,000 patients annually, with an estimated cost savings to patients of $6.5 million.
“We currently have five residents who collectively see approximately 20 patients per day,” Miller said. “After completion of this first construction phase, we will have seven residents next July and eventually welcome nine residents, enabling us to more than double the number of patients that we can treat.There is a three- to four-month waiting list to be considered a new patient, and a four-month waiting list for new patients to receive services. We maintain a waiting list of more than 200 patients at any time, and we receive 50 calls per day for assistance. Expansion of the dental center is paramount to meet the demand for quality and affordable dental care in the communities we serve, and this expansion will continue to ensure that patients of Southwest Virginia have access to the best dental care in the Commonwealth.”