SANTA ROSA -- Santa Rosa Community Health Centers said it will soon close escrow on the building for its forthcoming dental health center, which aims to alleviate one of Sonoma County's more persistent public health disparities by increasing access.

The new center will be located in a 12,600 square foot building at 1110 North Dutton Ave. in Santa Rosa, where Sutter Care at Home is currently located. The federally qualified health center expects to close on the building by May 3, at which point it will begin transforming the building into a 14-chair dental health center.

"We have completed our design development phase and are now beginning our construction drawing phase so that we can start the Santa Rosa City permit process and solicit bids for construction companies," Laurie Lynn Hogan, donor relations and communications manager, said in an email.

Upon opening, the dental center will treat some 6,500 children and adults when it reaches full capacity.  It will consist of six dentists, two hygienists and a total staff of about 30.  

Santa Rosa Community Health Centers' new dental center mirrors other efforts throughout the county, spurred largely by a 2011 report from the Sonoma County Task Force on Oral Health, which found wide disparities in access to quality dental care.

For example, the report found that only 15 dentists were available for 109,000 low income children.  And more than 50 percent of the county's third graders have experience tooth decay, outpacing the statewide average.

St. Joseph Health and Alliance Medical Center in Healdsburg are similarly working on expanding their dental offerings.

Santa Rosa Community Health Centers is in the midst of a capital campaign to raise $1.5 million to purchase the building on North Dutton. So far, it has received a number of pledges and commitments totaling $420,000 from donors such as Jeannie Schultz and Celebrate Community, Ms. Hogan said.

The health center received a federal grant of $2.8 million to renovate and pay for equipment at the new dental health center.