Oak Park-based PCC Community Wellness Center was recently awarded a grant for construction and equipment for a dental facility in its new Austin clinic.

PCC, which serves patients in Austin, Oak Park and the greater West Side and Chicago suburban areas, is overseeing construction of the new Austin Family Health Center at 5425 W. Lake St.,

The $200,000 grant was donated by the Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation, and will allow patients of the new clinic to receive oral treatment regardless of their insurance or income level. The facility is expected to open in the fall of 2009.

Robert Urso, president and CEO of PCC, anticipates the grant will allow dentists and hygienists to provide oral health services to more than 4,000 individuals annually.

“At the center, we were looking at the significance of oral health in relation to our patients’ overall physical health and found a definite link between them,” he said. “We discovered that those with poor oral health are more likely to suffer from other chronic illnesses than those who saw a dentist regularly.”

Urso points to a 2000 report issued by the U.S. Surgeon General. The study highlighted the need to address disparities of care among socioeconomic levels that effect an individual’s access to insurance and, therefore, treatment.

For example, the study found that uninsured children were 2.5 times less likely to receive dental care than insured children. Children from families without dental insurance were found to be 3 times as likely to have dental needs as compared to their insured peers.

“Consequently, the PCC board decided to make that a primary focus when looking at inclusions to compliment our planned new general care center,” Urso said.

The dental clinic will have four suites on the second floor of the new Austin care center. PCC plans to break ground at the Lake Street site next month.

Urso said “all the pieces are in place” to handle the construction.

The $5 million, 18,000-square-foot Austin Family Health Center should allow PCC Community Wellness Center to increase patient capacity.

The current facility, located at 335 N. Mason Ave., serves 13,000 visiting patients per year, but the new clinic is expected to accommodate more than 32,000 visits per year.

“The facility will have a more driver-friendly parking lot and be environmentally-friendly due to its expected LEED certification,” Urso said.

LEED certification is a recognized standard for building sustainability.

In addition, the facility will have 15 exam rooms on the first floor and space on the second floor for administrative services. It will also provide programs such as behavioral health, dental services, and a W.I.C. (Women, Infants, and Children), nutrition program.