Interfaith expands dental, behavioral health in Bellingham

Interfaith Community Heath Center will spend $2.1 million to expand its dental services for adults as well as its behavioral health program.

The health care provider is renovating its leased second-floor space at 1616 Cornwall Ave. in Bellingham to provide more of the much-needed services.

“These are both core pieces to try to make sure we have the ability to provide sort of an integrated suite of services for people who choose us as their health care home,” said Desmond Skubi, Interfaith’s executive director.

Faber Construction of Lynden is doing the renovation.

Interfaith provides dental, behavioral health and pharmacy services, along with primary care, regardless of patients’ ability to pay or insurance status. It has clinics in Bellingham, Ferndale and Point Roberts, and serves more than 16,000 adults and children in Whatcom County each year.

There are two parts to the renovation project.

The first started Wednesday, July 1, with work on the first floor to temporarily relocate the behavioral health program and administrative offices now on the second floor.

The second-floor renovation will start in September. When done in late February, the adult dental clinic on Cornwall will have 12 chairs, providing more of a service that low-income adults in Whatcom County say they need most but are least able to get.

“This is the first step in that, but by no means the last. The need is far greater than we’ll be able to fill with 12,” Skubi said. “For Interfaith, I see this as the first step in a much longer-term strategy.”

Interfaith will bring on as many as six full-time dentists and five full-time dental hygienists for its expanded dental services.

An estimated 19,000 low-income adults in the county “are seeking but unable to attain dental care, i.e. don’t have access to services,” said Lara Welker, program manager for Whatcom Alliance for Health Advancement, a nonprofit that’s part of a coalition working to help needy people obtain dental care in the county.

Interfaith is raising money for the $2.1 million expansion of its clinical services. (The expansion of its administrative offices, which is part of the overall project, will cost $300,000 but Interfaith isn’t fundraising for it.)

Donations so far have come from Washington Dental Service Foundation, The Norcliffe Foundation, Chuckanut Health Foundation, PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center, the city of Bellingham, Boeing ECF, and Tulalip Tribes.

Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com.

To help

Interfaith Community Health Center is raising money as it renovates a space at 1616 Cornwall Ave. in Bellingham to expand dental and behavioral health services. The cost is $2.1 million for the clinic expansion.

So far, the nonprofit care provider has raised $860,835, primarily through public and foundation grants, including from the city of Bellingham. To contribute, go to interfaithchc.org and select “donate” in the upper right corner.