Dental clinic reaches out to schoolsPublished 10:06pm Tuesday, March 19, 2013
For five years, Van Buren and Cass County District Health Department has been putting together a state-of-the-art dental clinic at Don Lyons Health Center in Dowagiac.
“I wish we’d had the foresight to build the clinic three times the size,” Administrator Jeff Elliott said. “Right now, we have 10 operatories and three dentists. Two are very local — Dr. (Chris) Garrison and Dr. (Matthew) Cripe — on a scheduled rotation. I’ve talked to Chuck Burling and Jon Gillesby as well about individuals who more or less fall through the cracks. What I mean by that is those individuals who have Medicaid, self-pay, sliding fee scale. We accept all insurances. Our rates, our fee schedule, is about 20 percent of the customary rate. It’s not the public sector and private sector trying to compete with each other, but we need to make sure all children who go to public school systems are not only screened, but provided restoration.”
“What we have found, in the private sector as well as the public sector,” Elliott told the Dowagiac Board of Education Monday night at the middle school, “in the spring and fall, a little van comes around and screens children. The last one that came to town was from Detroit. Screenings identify problems and they receive $107 reimbursement from Medicaid, but if they’re screened, they can’t come to the clinic for six months. That’s Medicaid rules and regulations. We’re defeating the purpose.”
“All I’m trying to say to the community,” Elliott said, “is there is an avenue here and dental is a big need, recognized by the governor as oral health services. That’s my main purpose is making sure all kids are screened. We want to work with school systems. School systems need to dictate to us what their schedules are, when we can send hygienists to screen these children on-site and/or refer them to the clinic. Any way we can help the school systems make these individuals healthy. In my 30 years as a public health director, I’ve found a healthy individual is a smarter individual because they’re there to learn” — not distracted by oral health issues, from confident smiles to toothaches that cause headaches.
Elliott is based in Hartford. The health district also has an office in Cassopolis.
He was accompanied by Skip Dyes, chairman of the Cass County Board of Commissioners and vice chairman of the health board.