Gary residents have a little more reason to smile.
Kool Smiles, a network of local dental offices dedicated to expanding access to quality dental care for children and families in underserved communities, celebrated the opening of its newest location Thursday at the Gary Community Health Center, 1021 W. 5th Ave.
Kool Smiles Regional Dental Director Polly Buckey said the day marked "an incredible new first."
"This is the first step on a path for public/private partnerships that can reduce barriers to dental access," she said, "one that we hope will be a model for other communities across the United States."
Gary's Kool Smiles office was generated in 2009 during Buckey's testimony at the Indiana Statehouse about the company's mission to expand quality dental care to underserved communities. State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, found Buckey's testimony to be consistent with his experiences in Northwest Indiana and worked with her to bring Kool Smiles to his hometown.
"This is a first that is starting here in Gary, Ind., that we have a private sector entity joining with the public and producing a service that is sorely needed," Brown said. "This goes to show you that Gary can be first in something positive."
The Gary Community Health Center is funded by taxpayer dollars through the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.
Kool Smiles has a multi-year agreement to provide care in partnership with the center in order to provide comprehensive, affordable dental services to adults and children.
"There has not been a community health center, with a private entity, that have come together in partnership at the same location to share patients and serve the population," said Janet Seabrook, director of the Gary Community Health Center. "This is a blessing for this community."
Gary Deputy Mayor Geraldine Tousant said Kool Smiles will be a great addition to the community and "a boost to our citizens."
"This is a good day for the city of Gary," she said.
Gary resident Hattie Lomax came to the celebration with family members in support of Kool Smiles. She said it's a good thing for people struggling with health care because of the economy.
"I'm glad to see anything come to Gary," she said. "We're blessed to see it."
For more information
For more information, visit koolsmilespc.com or call (219) 961-2210