SCHENECTADY – Hometown Health Centers is proposing to convert a vacant State Street pharmacy into a large dental clinic.
The organization, which serves in part as a health care provider for the uninsured and underinsured, gained a large influx of patients last year when it took over the dental clinic from Ellis Medicine at 600 McClellan St.
Combined with the existing dental clinic it operates at 1044 State St., Hometown now serves 16,000 to 17,000 dental patients annually.
Hometown Health Centers CEO Joe Gambino said the organization purchased the former Rite Aid at 1108 State St. and plans to extensively renovate the 13,275 square foot space.
With state and federal regulatory approvals and clearance from the Schenectady Planning Commission, which will review the proposal on March 16, the new clinic could open in late 2022.
“We purchased the former Rite Aid in August and are on track to open a new state-of-the-art dental facility, hopefully by the fourth quarter,” Gambino said.
Hometown is experiencing high demand for its dental services.
“Dentistry is busy, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “We’re basically the only game in town when it comes to Medicaid dental services. Most providers don’t take it.
The practice is now split between two locations – Ellis’ McClellan Street campus and Hometown’s main office just down State Street from the former Rite Aid.
“We couldn’t accommodate Ellis’ full patient assignment at our health center site here on State Street,” Gambino said. “We have decided to keep this site open until we actually open the new site.”
Hometown expects its patient volume to increase and hopes it will, Gambino said. Its staff still offer prevention to patients, but oral care is one of those things that tends to slip away in communities with constraints of time, money and transportation.
Additional dentists, hygienists and assistants are being hired. The new clinic will offer a full range, including general dentistry, pediatric dentistry and oral surgery.
Aesthetically, it will be very different from a cookie-cutter corporate pharmacy.
“The plans have an atrium that we’re going to put up front that will be all glass,” Gambino said. “It certainly won’t look like a Rite Aid, it will look much more modern.”
The tab for all of this, including the real estate purchase, should be $6.5 million.
To cover the costs, Hometown is trying to pull together a patchwork of funding sources, including the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, a grant from the Schenectady Foundation, an appropriation by U.S. Representative Paul Tonko, and its own financial reserves.
If all goes well, Gambino said, construction could begin in June.
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