A life-changing resource

The Saranac Lake Health Association is a life changing resource. We genuinely care, and we have since 1897, by providing no-cost health related services to those who need it, where they need it, within the Saranac Lake Central School District.

In our beginning, we provided nursing services for those suffering from tuberculosis and when a cure was found for that, we expanded our mission to provide genuine, friendly, and empathetic care to those we serve. In addition to in-home nursing care for the elderly and chronically ill, we provide preventative dental care to children in our elementary schools. Further, we provide financial assistance for hearing aids and necessary dental care. Finally, we provide scholarships for NCCC students in the RN and Radiologic Technician programs.

We are a New York State Licensed Home Care Services Agency dedicated to improving the quality of life for those who need help, as long as they need help. To this day, Saranac Lake Health Association remains one of the most unique and completely free community-based healthcare programs in New York state.

As we continue our mission, we want to share areas of our services so that all are aware of what we do in event that you need our assistance, or you wish to provide support.

As summer vacation ends and our children are returning to school, it is timely for you to know that the Saranac Lake Health Association provides the salary funding for the Registered Dental Hygienist Program in the area elementary schools of Petrova, Bloomingdale, and St. Bernard’s. This program provides dental screening, fluoride treatment (with parental approval), and oral hygiene education to all elementary children. To our knowledge no other New York State school district has a privately funded dental hygienist program.

This program had its beginning at a Saranac Lake Health Association board meeting in August 1980. At that meeting, the board approved the development of “… a screening program for elementary and middle school children, topical fluoride treatment to take place with parents written permission and teeth cleaning.” Further, the board requested that “… all local dentists be on a Dental Advisory Committee.” 1982 was the first full year of the Dental Health Program with over 500 children receiving dental exams, new toothbrushes and chairside instructions on plaque removal. When needed, this screening process resulted in referrals to parents for follow-up.

The Dental Hygiene Program has continued each year and, in the last 20 years it has been under the wonderful care of recently retired Suzanne Snizek, RDH.

In addition to the above services, Suzanne appeared annually as the Tooth Fairy for the kindergarten classes. She arranged class visits to dental offices when allowed, and showed YouTube virtual tours of a dental office when restricted by COVID-19. Also, dental hygiene supplies were sent home via goody bags to all students during Children’s Dental Health Month. When the coronavirus pandemic began, dental screenings were stopped due to the required public health restrictions. However, during this period, Suzanne continued to see students with acute dental/oral symptoms and complaints with corresponding referrals and phone calls to parents. Suzanne always thought of herself as an “ambassador” for dental health being a part of our holistic physical health and well-being.

Since the mouth is an entry way to the body, it is important for it to be healthy. Thus, she thought it was very important to build gentle and caring rapport with young students so that they were not so anxious about going to a dentist.

In January 2023, dental screenings were restarted by the newly hired Registered Dental Hygienist Patti Peebles. Patti has continued the caring approach to dental care with children as she thinks the health clinic can be a comforting and healing center for many students. She was able to provide dental screening for all elementary students through the fifth grade with commensurate referrals to parents for any needed care. It was Patti’s observation that due to the COVID-19 hiatus from dental screening, “dental care has been greatly neglected with evidence of multiple cavities, lost teeth, and lack of daily preventive care.”

As we continue to provide all our services, we want everyone to know that none of this would be possible without the many gifts and bequests from our donors and supporters whom we wish to thank as we carry on our mission. Saranac Lake Health Association is “Your Helping Hand.”

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Wallace Cole Campbell lives in Saranac Lake.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this commentary incorrectly said that an SLHA program provides dental cleaning for all elementary school aged children. It provides oral hygiene education.


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