Dental Center receives a boost

Dr. Jonathan Mealy examines Riller Davis, 60, of Johnstown on Friday, July 10, 2015, at the Salvation Army Dental Center of Johnstown.

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – Barely two months after announcing its dental center would relocate this month from downtown Johnstown to Upper Yoder Township, the Salvation Army Western Pennsylvania Division now says the center will instead permanently close this month.

“In its place, we hope to offer financial assistance for the dental health care needs of the most vulnerable in the community,” the organization said in a press release.

Maj. Gregory Hartshorn, division commander, said the groundwork is being put into place for the assistance program.

“We are laying the foundation to work with local dentists to offer this assistance to vulnerable populations in Johnstown who need this critical care,” Hartshorn said.

The dental center has operated in the Feeder Canal Building, 647 Main St., since it opened in 2013. In November, the Salvation Army announced plans to move to a new location on Goucher Street in Upper Yoder Township. Issues with the rental property recently came to light, scrapping the planned move, the press release said.

The Salvation Army is developing a financial dental assistance program for local patients who are not insured or who can’t afford dental services.

The organization has operated its Indigent Care Fund with support from local organizations, including United Way of the Laurel Highlands.

“Many of us have experienced the urgent need for a dentist, whether it’s a toothache or a dental emergency that requires immediate attention,” Hartshorn said. “While our center is closing its physical doors, the support for these services will remain as we work to create new partnerships and identify funding to continue this critical work in the community.”

Capt. Ted Tressler, divisional secretary for property, said that the dental services supported by the Salvation Army in the future won’t differ that much from the Main Street center’s services.

“The dental health care support we offer to the community moving forward will look different with the loss of a physical building,” Tressler said. “However, our presence and passion for giving our neighbors the support they need remains unchanged, as we will continue to provide patient connections and financial assistance for dental care to those in need in the community.”

“The Salvation Army has been a long-time partner with United Way of the Laurel Highlands in the integration of overall health care in the entire community,” said Karen Struble Myers, United Way president and CEO. “As United Way, we remain committed to the quality of health care and hope to be part of a community-based solution that addresses local needs.

“The Salvation Army has done great work in the community and we are disheartened that they can’t continue this important need by providing direct care.”

Randy Griffith is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5057. Follow him on Twitter @PhotoGriffer57.

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