PORTSMOUTH, Va. — For more than 20 years, the Hampton Roads Community Health Center has used a mobile dental van to go the extra mile for its patients.
“Before COVID, we were able to go about 37 schools and treat children on sight,” Barbara Willis said, the center's CEO.
The vans would go to schools in Portsmouth, Norfolk and Suffolk. It would even go to several communities to expand this type of care to adults.
Though, with time, wear and tear caught up with the roughly 23-year-old vehicle.
“It breaks down," Dr. Robin Langston the center’s chief dental officer said.
"Most of the time if it’s not the van itself, it’s the equipment, the dental equipment inside.”
Issues with the van got so bad that dentists couldn’t meet their commitments to service, or their equipment would stop working.
Now, thousands of federal dollars will help to retire this van and buy a new one.
“Our anticipation is that we’ll have twice the service,” Willis said.
Monday morning, Congressman Bobby Scott awarded the center more than $800,000 to replace it.
It comes from community project funds secured in the FY 2023 Omnibus Appropriations Act. He expressed the important role that these centers play for many people.
“A lot of people don’t have a healthcare provider," Congressman Bobby Scott said.
"So even though you have insurance, you don’t have anywhere to go. Community health centers fill that gap.”
Langston is eager to get the new van out on the streets to continue their mission to serve.
“We have the heart," Dr. Langston said.
"So, now we have the van to back it up. So, nothing can stop us now.”