Health & Dental Center expanding to help more

Health & Dental Center expanding to help more

Williamsport Sun-Gazette | September 29, 2015


Sun-Gazette Correspondent

A sad fact of life is that anyone can become sick, whether or not they have the funds to pay for medical expenses.

In many cases of financial hardship, people will forego primary or dental care until a discomfort becomes an emergency, and end up dealing with high medical bills as a result.

Fortunately, there are organizations in our community like the Susquehanna Community Health and Dental Center that dedicate themselves to providing primary and preventive care to the insured and uninsured alike–and they’re only getting better.

The Susquehanna Community Health and Dental Center (SCH&DC), located at 471 Hepburn Street, is in the process of expanding its services and facilities in an effort to provide higher-quality primary care to Lycoming County residents, regardless of their ability to pay.

The SCH&DC offers “one stop shopping” for primary care, including medical, dental, and behavioral health services with sliding-scale fees. It also utilizes enrollment specialists to help patients obtain health insurance, and health counselors to guide them in their care decisions.

The SCH&DC has been operating in a space of a little over 11,000 square feet, but it plans to expand the size of its building to 26,000 square feet, increasing the number of primary care exam rooms and dental operatories.

It will also be adapting dental rooms with swivel-chairs to make them handicap-accessible, expanding the center’s service desks and adding a walk-in urgent care suite for patients, in hopes of lowering instances of inappropriate emergency room usage.

SCH&DC originated as a clinic attached to Divine Providence hospital, which was operated by nuns as a charity service. While this model allowed needy patients to receive care, the costs required to operate it were not sustainable.

“We knew that there was a huge need in the community that still needed to be met, and we knew we needed to find a better model to do that,” Ellen Krajewski, outgoing CEO, said.

When Krajewski took over the clinic in 2010, she implemented an FQHC model instead, which stands for “Fees based on ability to pay, Quality primary health care open to all, Highly competent health professional team, and Community governed and patient-centered care.”

Since their initiation in the 1970s, federally-qualified Community Health Centers have grown to serve upwards of 38 million people in the United States, forming the largest primary care network in the nation that serves the underprivileged.

To become qualified as an FQHC, a community health center must offer a wide range of specific services, such as primary care, volunteer family planning, STD clinics, specialty referrals, chronic illness management, behavioral health access, dental services and more.

In return for achieving these quality care standards, qualified Community Health Centers receive increased reimbursement from the state, which allows them to serve lower-income populations without losing money.

Since the SCH&DC began using the FQHC model, it has seen tremendous growth in terms of services offered, community involvement, and number of patients served.

SCH&DC has partnered with other service organizations in the area, such as STEP transportation, the Lycoming County United Way, First Community Foundation and local churches, and has participated in the Williamsport Red Shield Community Garden to focus on malnutrition education.

SCH&DC’s Medical Director, Dr. Ralph Kaiser and Dental Director, Dr. Christopher Coyner, who have both had experience in private practices, have been with the center for multiple years and truly understand the mission.

“You have to come here for more than a paycheck,” Krajewski said, noting that the SCH&DC’s employees are usually motivated by some sort of service or faith-based commitment. “The staff here treats everyone kindly regardless of what their payment ability is–and that’s not always expected.”

Additionally, 51 percent of the SCH&DC board’s members must be patients to ensure that the board understands the community’s needs and keeps the patient experience at the forefront of decision-making.

Jim Yoxtheimer is the SCH&DC’s newly-appointed CEO who will be taking the reins due to Krajewski relocating to Vermont. He has a diverse background, having worked in hospital and community settings, as well as in human resources.

In the meantime, Krajewski expects the SCH&DC will continue to work on educating patients about healthy habits, and become more involved in the community.

“We want to keep asking the question, ‘what can we do to better or differently improve the health of the community and provide care to people who are still facing barriers?’” she said.

Anyone interested in scheduling an appointment at the SCH&DC or inquiring about volunteer opportunities can stop into the office or call 570- 567-5400.

 For more information about the SCH&DC, visit the center’s website at

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