By Genine Hopkins
The groundbreaking ceremony for the new, 24,000 square foot building – MidMichigan Health Park – Harrison, located at 815 N. Clare Avenue – took place at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, September 17, 2013. The crowd gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony was as diverse as the tenants of the new building will be, from County Commissioners Lynn Grim, Dale Majewski, and Jim Gelios to CEO of Michigan Community Dental Clinics, Dr. Thomas Veryser, D.D.S., M.H.S.A. and Harrison representatives Mayor Stacy Stocking and City Clerk Tracey Beadle.
The building will house a larger family medicine offices and specialty physicians in half of the space, with the new Central Michigan District Health Department (CMDHD) and 3,500 square foot community dental clinic residing in the other half, and is expected to open in April 2014.
The Clare County community has been anticipating the arrival of expanded health services and community dental clinic after having been declared the “unhealthiest county in Michigan” in a 2010 University of Wisconsin study on county health in the U.S.
Since that designation, the Together We Can Health Improvement Committee for Clare and Gladwin counties has been meeting regularly and holding yearly health summits to determine the best route to take in improving overall county health.
Their efforts have begun to pay off, with Clare County gladly losing its last place designation, climbing up from #82 out of 82 counties ranked to #75; the group hopes that efforts such as the community dental clinic and U of M Community Dental Outreach program – set to be initiated within the first year of the dental clinic reaching out to those whose income prohibits them from receiving proper oral hygiene – will go a long way in continuing that climb.
Former CMDHD Director Mary Kushion – who officially retired the Friday prior to the groundbreaking – was on hand to see her hard work developing a partnership between the three entities come to fruition. She was quick to acknowledge the hard work of the TWC team – mentioning this reporter specifically – stating they “held their feet to the fire to insure the community’s poor and underserved citizens had equal access to quality dental care.”
Their work has taken three years to see results; Kushion herself began the conversation between MidMichigan Health, Michigan Community Dental Clinics and the CMDHD exactly one year ago to the day. The hope is that citizens who have adult Medicaid but don’t necessarily have the transportation to travel to Cadillac, Mt. Pleasant or West Branch will be able to find an oral healthcare home.
Additionally, the Michigan Community Dental Clinics offer reduced fees for the uninsured, opening up access for those who have a small amount of disposable income a chance to receive dental care. As a voice for those who simply cannot even afford more expensive dental work, I have also insured that the U of M Community Dental Outreach Program will finally find a fully operational “home” to service the needs of that population on a trade off for community service hours in lieu of cash payment.
Kushion had stated just prior to her retirement that she had hopes that the joint venture would eventually result in a free medical clinic as well, perhaps using the CMDHD exam rooms as they do in Mt. Pleasant.
After the ground breaking ceremony, attendees were welcomed into the current MidMichigan Health Park offices for some refreshments. As stated by Ray Stover, the CEO and President of MidMichigan Medical Centers in Clare and Gladwin and who opened the ceremony, it was a great moment in which the community came together to create something great for the citizens it serves, to improve and expand healthcare.