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Salvation Army opens community dental center in Johnstown

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. -- Studies have shown that poor dental hygiene can often lead to more serious medical problems and that's why the Salvation Army in Johnstown is taking on a new venture. The organization dedicated a new dental center downtown Friday morning to help those in need.

The Salvation Army already has a center like it in Pennsylvania, but said it decided to bring one to this region after seeing a great need, not only in Johnstown, but the surrounding counties.

"Somebody said something about dental services not being available and I sheepishly raised my hand and said, "Don't reinvent the wheel, the Salvation Army has a dental center in Oil City," said Major Joseph Pawlowski. "I went on to explain and I had hoped someone would contact them but they thought, 'That's a good idea major. You go and do that."

Pawlowski did, two years later cutting the ceremonial ribbon Friday morning to dedicate what will be the first and only dental center in the region to help those in need.

"There are no other services in the region. We will be the only place that accepts the access card in Johnstown and Cambria County," said Pawlowski. "That means we are the only dental service for anyone on Medicare, Medicaid and all of those type of things we'll be able to use."

"With the exception of some really advanced procedures, I'm a general dentist, so for the most part I'll be able to do anything, extractions, fillings, cleanings," said Dr. James Mancini.

Mancini has been running the Salvation Army's dental center in Oil City since 2010. He said he sees about 250 patients every week and knows the need for a center in Cambria County is even greater.

"There's probably more patients here in Cambria County than I have in Venango County," said Mancini. "There's more people who live here."

But the center is not reserved for the less fortunate. The Salvation Army said its dental services are available for anyone who needs them.

"If I'm here, and the dentist coming in December, he also belongs to every insurance company in Pennsylvania," said Mancini. "As long as we belong to that company we can see patients."

For those without insurance, the cost for an exam, X-ray and cleaning will run about $80, but the Salvation Army said it will help with payment plans and financial assistance.

The office will only be open on Fridays to start but said it will extend its hours as the needs arises. Appointments will be required.

"We have been blessed by the generosity of our good friends from Lee Initiatives, Inc.," said Pawlowski.

A press released said the ultimate goal of the facility is to become self-sustaining. The Johnstown Salvation Army will rely on the support of local dental professionals and volunteers to secure grants, personal donations, and legacy funds. As the program develops, there will be an opportunity to place earmarked funds from annuities and wills into investment reserves.

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times