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Safety Net Clinic Wins Grant

By Ethel Peterson
News | February 25, 2010

DODGE CITY, Kan. - Joy and great satisfaction were evident in the room when Bill Hammond announced that Dodge City's Oral Health Coalition had been awarded a $50,000 grant for their Oral Health Safety Net Clinic for it's first year of operation, and another $25,00 for year two. The award was the result of an application to the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund to help start a clinic which would function as an aid to those Southwest Kansans who are not able to access dental services that they desperately need.

The formation of the coalition is a story in itself. It begins with the Dodge City Rotary Club and the president-elect, Bill Hammond. In his "other life," Bill is the Director of Business & Finance for USD 443 in Dodge City. The president-elect, who was to follow Bill in office was Dr. Richard Stein, a local dentist.

These two fellows rode together to a training session that Rotary Clubs require of their incoming officers. They saw videos of, and heard presentations concerning serious dental problems existing in Latin American countries. Various clubs had developed projects to, in some way, aid in alleviating those problems.

The two men discussed the possibilities during the drive home, and reportedly, Dentist Richard said, "Well, you sure don't have to go to Mexico or South America to see those kinds of mouths! I see them very often right in Dodge City." You can guess the rest. They started the Ford County Oral Health Coalition and now there is a beginning for improved oral health in Ford County.

Of course, there is more to the story.They discussed some screening that Dr. Stein had done at the school where his wife teaches kindergarten, a school that has more kids qualifying for free lunch than not qualifying.

Then they learned that United Methodist American Ministries had done screenings in two other schools. The results indicated a need for improvement. Contact with the Ford County Health Department confirmed the need and the fact they were searching for ways to remedy the situation.

Three more people were added to the core committee, Ethel Peterson, a retired educator (who is also the writer of this article), Duane Ross, the retired publisher of The High Plains Journal, an agricultural publication with multi-state coverage area, and Morris Reeves,
a retired school system financial manager in Kansas and in California.

When they began to discuss the problem, many other facets began to appear. They learned of organizations that they did not know even existed, yet those agencies were born of the same need for better oral health. One state-wide group is called Oral Health Kansas and was started seven years ago for the purpose of promoting community health clinics to educate and provide treatment for oral health problems. Another is Kansas Cavity-Free Kids and yet another is Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved. Those three organizations immediately provided hands-on help to the local unit.

To quickly "cut to the chase," it can now be reported that there is a building donated rent-free for two years to be used for a dental clinic. Five local dentists have agreed to donate one day per month working in the clinic, thus providing the clinic with one day per week of donated dentist time. There is a dental hygienist available two days per week, and a very diverse community coalition in place.

Represented on the coalition are: USD 443 public school nurses and counselors, Center for Independent Living, Ford County Health Department, the Western Plains Medical Complex, the Dodge City Ministerial Alliance, Ford County Council on Aging, Kansas Ombudsman for Long Term Care, Arrowhead West, Methodist Youthville, The City of Dodge City, Ford County, Bright Beginnings of Head Start, SRS--Dodge City office Community Foundation of Southwest Kansas, United Way of Dodge City, as well as the general sponsorship of the United Methodist Mexican American Ministries. There are many dedicated volunteers and several grant applications pending.

If developments continue at the present rate, this dental clinic should be open and running by May of 2010. Two articles will follow with details on how such a clinic can be built in other counties.

These clinics do have the capacity to change the health of a whole community. You know the saying, "It takes a village to....well, stay tuned. It can do even more than you think.


1 Comment

Bravo to Dodge City! This is such good news! I wish more communities in Kansas would pursue this type of community development.

For example, in the city Hays, to my knowledge, none of the dentists that practice in Hays will even accept Medicaid reimbursement. So even those people who, on the lowest rungs of our economic ladder and who are probably working 1 or more full-time jobs, who nonetheless have jumped through numerous hoops to seek care for their children's teeth, are turned away by the dentists because the dentist don't want to accept Medicaid payments.

Then, to top it off, some of the Hays dentists get a lot of positive PR for their clinics when they go and donate a day or two of their time to free clinics in Wichita or KC, all while the disadvantaged in their own town have no access to dental services.

Bravo to Dodge City. I hope many other towns and cities in Kansas will follow Dodge's lead and establish safety nets for our most vulnerable hardworking citizens.


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