Archive for Thursday, August 30, 2001

Dental coalition recruiting staff for free clinic

August 30, 2001

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Members of the Douglas County Dental Coalition had hoped to have their clinic for low-income residents open by Aug. 1.

Now they're shooting for the middle of September.

Coalition members are recruiting dentists and hygienists to work at the clinic, and they hope to secure a major grant next week to fund the facility. Then the clinic can open its doors to patients.

"I don't know the demographics of Lawrence, but I know a lot of people fall through the cracks," said Dr. Galen Van Blaricum, a dentist who has volunteered to work at the clinic. "There are people who can't afford dentistry. There are a lot of teeth that can be helped or saved without extractions."

The Dental Coalition was founded in 1998, and members have been organizing the clinic since then. When dentist Larry Mayer retired in June, the group rented his clinic at 944 Ky. and purchased his equipment.

Ed Manda, a dentist who serves as vice president of the coalition's board of directors, said the group hopes to hire a full-time dentist through the National Health Service Corps, an agency that places dentists in high-need areas in exchange for helping pay their college loans.

But such a dentist wouldn't be available until sometime next year. Until then, the group hopes to staff the clinic with volunteer dentists and hygienists, possibly as soon as the middle of September.

Manda said he and three other dentists Van Blaricum, Paul Herrera and Kerri Lawlor have volunteered so far. They'd like to have about 10 dentists volunteer.

Donita Bouton, a hygienist for Dr. John Hay and the coalition's secretary, said more than 30 hygienists have indicated they would help.

The group also would like to hire an office assistant. Patient payment will be on a sliding scale, depending on income.

Health-care experts say the clinic will fill a need for poor people, because Medicaid doesn't offer dental coverage for adults, and few dentists accept the coverage for children.

The board of directors for the Hutchinson-based United Meth-odist Health Ministry Fund will consider Wednesday whether to give the clinic a three-year, $100,000 grant to help pay for operating expenses.

Virginia Elliott, the Health Ministry Fund's program officer, said she was impressed when she toured the clinic's building last week.

"The people involved were energetic and certainly had good ideas about what needed to be done," she said. "The location seemed to be excellent on the bus route and right near the (Community) Drop-In Center."

State Sen. Sandy Praeger also toured the facility last week. She said she thought the clinic also could secure government grants.

But for now, the group is looking for dentists to see patients.

"The more dentists that do it, the less burden it is for everybody," Lawlor said.

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