Blue Ridge Health (BRH) and community partners recently collaborated in an effort to keep a critical Polk County dental practice open. When Collins Dental Center needed to close its doors on May 30th, leadership from Blue Ridge Health, Polk County, the Rutherford-Polk-McDowell Health District, and Thermal Belt Outreach Ministry began working together to identify an alternative solution. After discussing potential options, the four organizations were in agreement that BRH should assume operations of the practice.

“The response from Blue Ridge Health leadership, Thermal Belt Outreach Ministry, and the Rutherford-Polk-McDowell Health District has been fantastic. Collins is a vital resource for our county and we’re thrilled Blue Ridge Health is in a position to help.  I am heartened by the strong collaboration between these compassionate agencies that, in the face of a potential blow to oral health in Polk County, were focused so intently on preserving access to necessary care,” said Marche Pittman, County Manager for Polk County.

Before Collins Dental Center opened in 2006, Polk County had some of the highest numbers of untreated kindergarten dental decay in the state. Now, more than 80% of preschool children have the dental care they need. This is just one example demonstrating why this resource should continue to be available to the Center’s more than 4,000 active patients. 

“We’re proud of the Collins Dental Center legacy and are confident in Blue Ridge Health’s ability to carry it forward. Ensuring the health and well-being of our communities is a team effort and we’re excited to watch this next chapter unfold,” said Karen Powell, Health Director for the Rutherford – Polk – McDowell Health District. 

Blue Ridge Health – Collins Dental will be the fourth dental practice operated by the organization in the region.  BRH currently provides dental services in Brevard, Spindale and Hendersonville. In 2017, close to 8,000 people scheduled over 18,000 visits at a BRH Dental practice.   

“Maintaining access to high quality, affordable care is at the core of our mission at Blue Ridge Health,” said Dr. Richard Hudspeth, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Medical Officer for Blue Ridge Health. “After actively working with our community partners to explore available options for keeping Collins Dental open, we all agreed that having Collins join the Blue Ridge Health family is in the best interest of the greater Polk County community.”

Collins Dental built a strong foundation for serving the pediatric oral health needs of Polk County. At the heart of BRH’s mission is to never turn anyone away from care they need. With this location and nearby practices in Spindale and Hendersonville, the goal is to expand access to dental care for all.  

Collins Dental will still be located at 158 White Drive in Columbus, next door to Thermal Belt Outreach Ministry. “We’re so glad to be a part of ensuring that this location will continue to serve our community in such an important way,” said Executive Director for Thermal Belt, George Alley.

While Blue Ridge Health – Collins Dental is currently closed, BRH plans to reopen it as soon as possible. Staff are currently on site and available to patients 9:00am – 2:00pm Monday – Thursday. BRH anticipates needing to spend the first two weeks reaching out to active patients, answering questions, setting up schedules, and connecting the practice with its internal systems.  Patient care is expected to resume the week of July 4th, with limited hours that week due to the holiday, and normal hours beginning the following week. 

Former patients of Collins Dental Center can expect to receive a letter in the coming weeks with instructions on how to schedule their next appointment. Call 828-894-3120 to speak with staff on site, email with questions and be sure to check for regular updates.

About Blue Ridge Health

Blue Ridge Health is a nonprofit healthcare system that works closely with communities to meet the ever-changing healthcare needs of our region with high-quality, comprehensive, and accessible healthcare services. With 17 locations throughout western North Carolina and additional programs within schools, BRH offers primary care, dental, pharmacy, behavioral health and nutrition services that prioritize the patient care experience. For more than 50 years, BRH has served as the leader in community-focused healthcare, providing services to communities in Henderson, Rutherford, Buncombe, Transylvania, Polk, Jackson, and Haywood counties. If you would like more information about Blue Ridge Health, call 828-692-4289 or visit