Filling a vital RI need

Tri-County CAA assumes ownership of CharterCARE’s St. Joseph Pediatric Dental Center

Posted 2/13/24

Chief Resident Daniel Boateng and Dental Assistant Sheila Fernandez readied the exam room for their next patient. They try to turn the chair over quick. They’ve got patients waiting.

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Filling a vital RI need

Tri-County CAA assumes ownership of CharterCARE’s St. Joseph Pediatric Dental Center


Chief Resident Daniel Boateng and Dental Assistant Sheila Fernandez readied the exam room for their next patient. They try to turn the chair over quick. They’ve got patients waiting.

For the past month, youngsters and their parents have been packing the waiting room, often spilling out into the hallway of the dental practice inside Tri-County Community Action Agency’s (CAA) Hartford Avenue headquarters.

The Johnston-based CAA has “assumed ownership” of the former St. Joseph’s Pediatric Dental Clinic, which closed its doors earlier this year in Providence after CharterCARE Health decided not to renew its lease for 2024.

“Our goal is to expand as much as humanly possible,” said Tri-County CAA President and CEO Joseph DeSantis.

Tri-County’s contractors have been working hard at a new off-site location on Mineral Spring Avenue in North Providence. Meanwhile, the Hartford Avenue dental practice has been welcoming St. Joe’s patients, in a state where pediatric dental care can be hard to find.

“In a bold and innovative move, the Tri-County (CAA) has assumed ownership of the long-standing and highly esteemed St. Joseph Pediatric Dental Center, previously operated by CharterCARE Health Partners,” according to a Tri-County press release. “The strategic move is part of Tri-County's ongoing commitment to increasing access to dental health services to children and families and enhancing dental/oral health integration across the state.”

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) recently approved the acquisition.

Tri-County promises to “ensure that thousands of Rhode Island children and families will continue to have access to critically needed dental services, particularly for low and moderate-income families.”

According to Tri-County, the St. Joseph Dental Center, previously located at 21 Peace St. in Providence, closed its doors on Dec. 31, 2023, when the building lease expired.

“CharterCARE began discussions with Tri-County early in 2023 to ensure a smooth transition of the dental practice, and to minimize any lapse in dental care for established patients,” according to the press release. “CharterCARE and Tri-County have had a longstanding and collaborative relationship for various health related initiatives, making Tri-County CAA uniquely positioned to successfully transition the program as well as staff and patients.”

The Staff

DeSantis said eight pediatric dental residents from New York University (NYU) Langone, under the supervision of Dr. Daniel J. Kane, have started seeing patients in the 1126 Hartford Ave. building, inside the new Tri-County Pediatric and Family Dental Center which opened on Jan. 1. The St. Joe’s dental staff will work from Johnston while the final stages of construction wrap at their new practice, located inside the Medical Arts Building at 1637 Mineral Spring Ave., Suite 101, North Providence.

“The new dental facility is ideally situated for patients with its close proximity to public transportation, and neighboring Providence neighborhoods,” according to Tri-County.

St. Joseph’s entire staff, including "pediatric and general dental providers, oral surgeon, hygienists, dental assistants, receptionists, and administrative staff were given the opportunity to become Tri-County employees as part of the transition,” according to the agency. “Tri-County plans to maintain the dental providers’ privileges at Our Lady of Fatima Hospital so that they may continue to offer sedation dentistry and oral surgery for pediatric patients. Sedation dentistry can be a critical service for young patients and/or people with special healthcare needs that are not able to complete dental services otherwise.”

Tri-County also welcomes Dr. Kane, the former St. Joseph’s Dental Director who will now serve as dental director for Tri-County.

"Rhode Island is experiencing a critical shortage of dental providers in the state, and particularly providers that accept Medicaid or uninsured patients,” said Dr. Kane. “As a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) Tri-County accepts all patients, including those with Medicaid, or those experiencing financial difficulties so I am confident that all patients who received care at St. Joseph’s will find a new dental home with Tri-County.”

Patients who previously received care at St. Joseph’s “are encouraged to transition their care to the new Tri-County Pediatric and Family Dental Center location on Mineral Spring Avenue,” according to Tri-County. Tri-County pledges to maintain St. Joseph’s “historical dental records going forward.”

 “We are thrilled to add the Pediatric Dental Residency program to our Health Center,” said Brenda Dowlatshahi, Tri-County COO and Health Center Director. “The expertise and innovation brought by Dr. Kane and NYU Langone will undoubtedly elevate our practice, enhancing our ability to deliver comprehensive and cutting-edge dental services. We look forward to the invaluable contributions and shared knowledge that this collaboration will bring, ultimately benefitting the oral health and well-being of our patients.”

St. Joseph’s patients “experiencing a dental emergency” can schedule an appointment now in Johnston.

A Big Gift

DeSantis thanked Dr. Jerry Kheradi, a private physician, who maintained a medical practice in the space for several years before retiring and donating the space to in the Medical Arts building to Tri-County CAA. The agency estimates the space was “valued at about $400,000.”

Work started last fall, and Tri-County plans to add 13 “new state-of the-art dental operatories.” They hope work will finish this moth. The $6.2 million “was funded by miscellaneous and diverse funding streams” according to Tri-County, including a $1 million Congressional Directed Spending Grant from Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed.

“Additional funding was secured from the Federal Bureau of Primary Care: Health Resources and Services Administration, Neighborhood Health Plan of RI, Tri-County CAA, and other anonymous Donors,” according to Tri-County’s press release.

"We are excited to welcome the talented team from the St. Joseph Dental Center into the Tri-County family," DeSantis said. “This acquisition aligns with our mission to address the diverse healthcare needs of our community and ensures that high-quality dental services are readily accessible. As service providers our team is our greatest asset, and I’m confident that the Tri-County team, and the St. Joseph team will merge successfully to provide exceptional patient care.”

The agency has been raising funds and seeking help from other organizations, “especially for the first year of the project” in an effort “to ensure access to these critical services goes uninterrupted.”

Tri-County has also secured a second suite in the Medical Arts building for administrative operations.

“Since the need for family and pediatric dental care is fully expected to grow over the next several months, there is potential to add additional dental operatories in the building to keep up with patient need,” according to Tri-County. “The brand new, state-of-the-art facility will be equipped to provide comprehensive and gentle dental care tailored to the unique needs of pediatric patients, offering a comfortable and child-friendly environment.”

CharterCARE Exits the Ocean State?

CharterCARE’s decision to give up the Providence dental practice fit perfectly with Tri-County’s expansion plans, according to DeSantis.

CharterCARE also operates two key Rhode Island healthcare institutions — Roger Williams Medical Center and Our Lady of Fatima Hospital (owned by Prospect Medical Holdings). On Jan. 29, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Neronha and RIDOH released an application (with redactions), by Georgia nonprofit the Centurion Foundation, to purchase the two hospitals. The public can comment on the sale, in writing (through Feb. 29) or during a pair of public meetings (dates and times to be announced soon).

 “Public comments will be taken into consideration by the Attorney General and RIDOH as they complete their review of this application,” according to a press release from Neronha’s office. “Following the informational public meetings, the Attorney General and RIDOH will continue their review of the application.”

Both the AG and RIDOH need to sign off on the hospital sale, as dictated by the Hospital Conversions Act (HCA). The state agencies “deemed Centurion’s application complete in December.” The HCA requires completion of the review within 180 days (by June 11).

Centurion missed a September deadline after Neronha and RIDOH Interim Director Utpala Bandy “deemed” Centurion’s application “incomplete” In August. The AG’s office issued a press release declaring the application did “not contain sufficient information necessary for the State to conduct its review under the HCA.” And the AG set a new deadline of Sept. 26, 2023, for “the applying parties” to “correct the deficiencies within 30 working days.”

“The parties were notified of the numerous deficiencies in a letter from the Attorney General and the Department of Health,” according to Neronha’s office. “The letter outlined the application’s deficiencies, including the lack of detail surrounding the structure of the entities and how the parties intend to achieve the goals proposed in the Application.”

Neronha’s has sounded the alarm bells regarding the status of healthcare in the Ocean State.

Following their eventually accepted application submission in December, CharterCARE earned approval from RIDOH to hand St. Joseph over to Tri-County . The head of CharterCARE issued a statement on the dental practice transfer (which also required RIDOH approval).

“CharterCARE is proud to have founded this critically important dental program and to have successfully operated it for many years,” said Jeffrey Liebman, CharterCARE CEO. “We are very grateful that Tri-County has taken this program on and we are delighted that dental staff and patients will have access to a beautiful new facility.”

About Tri-County

According to Tri-County CAA, “all patients of the new Tri-County Pediatric and Family Dental Center will have access to other (agency) programs as well, such as pediatric medical care, food and heating assistance, Head Start programs, behavioral healthcare for adults and children, employment and training programs, and more.”

“Tri-County plans to send their mobile health unit to the Mineral Spring Avenue location twice per week to provide dental patients access to medical care as well,” according to the agency.

For more information about Tri-County CAA’s Pediatric Dental Clinic visit or call 401-519-1940.

Tri-County CAA, “a private, nonprofit, community service agency” founded in 1965 is headquartered in Johnston, and operates 16 locations across the Ocean State.


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