Dental coalition studies feasibility of full-time children's clinic

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— The Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition is using a $25,000 grant from Caring for Colorado to study the feasibility of a full-time dental clinic for low-income children.

The money will be available in January 2003.

"We have so many questions," coalition Executive Director Debi Garoutte said. "Mainly, we need to find continual funding and answer questions about staffing."

Currently, the coalition supports the Miles for Smiles Dental Van, a fully staffed and equipped dental office on wheels that travels between Rio Blanco, Routt and Moffat counties.

"The mobile van comes once a year and is only in the area for 10 weeks," Garoutte said. "We would like to see a full-time, year-round clinic."

The new clinic, if it becomes a reality, will service children from the same three counties.

The goal, Garoutte said, is to use the $25,000 in grant money to visit indigent clinics around Colorado, such as the clinic in Montrose and the Marillac Clinic in Grand Junction.

Once Garoutte's team feels it is ready to attempt opening the stationary clinic, the coalition will seek grants for staffing and daily expenses.

"Caring for Colorado has set aside between $6 million and $8 million for oral health," Garoutte said.

The Dental Coalition will apply for money from Caring for Colorado but will also pursue other options, she said.

With the services available, parents must travel to Denver or Grand Junction to get affordable dental care, Garoutte said.

The Dental Van will not return until next April.

As of January 2002, there were 2,363 children in the three counties from low-income families that lacked insurance or Medicaid, Garoutte said. Only 320 children were able to make it to the dental van this year.

Though the coalition has focused on children since its inception, the organization would like the new stationary clinic to service adults as well.

"We are going to ask questions," Garoutte said. "The clinic in Grand Junction takes adults, but we want to start something that is going to succeed."

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