Thursday, September 1, 2005
The phone still rings off the hook with patients needing dental care at the Northwest Colorado Dental Care Clinic.
But since the clinic has been formed to serve uninsured and indigent patients in Moffat, Routt, Rio Blanco, Grand and Jackson counties, workers there have started to chip away at oral decay.
"We've been very busy," said Debi Harmon, director of the Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition, the nonprofit responsible for opening the Craig-based clinic. "It's going to be like that for a long time."
The clinic, which opened in March, serves children up to 21 years old who qualify under Medicaid or the state's Child Health Plan Plus in Northwest Colorado's five-county region. The center also accepts low-income patients and prenatal mothers.
But with a nod from coalition directors, the clinic may be able to serve adult prevention needs on a sliding scale. Harmon said it makes sense as oral decay tends to run in families.
"We're starting preventive work for under served adults," she said. "It's not restorative but people could get cleaning, fluoride and their basic needs.
"We have to start somewhere."
The program may be available with help through second-year dental hygiene students from Rangely's Colorado Northwestern Community College, Harmon said.
The program has the potential to save adults money. Harmon said the clinic could offer the service for about $40 to $50, a savings from about $250, a sum it might cost at a private practice.
Harmon said the clinic may complete plans to offer the service by the end of September.
The clinic also is planning to offer screenings at area schools through October. Last year, while doing similar screenings in area schools, hygienists identified 144 cases of visible tooth decay in children, Harmon said. Forty-two of those cases were from Hayden children.
"Now, if the family is eligible for our services, we can get everything fixed," Harmon said.
Harmon said her dream is to someday operate a mobile clinic from the dental coalition's base.
That's in part because word of the Craig clinic's opening seems to be slow in getting to clients in the full extent of the coalition's coverage area.
"Who knows where this could lead to?" Harmon said. "We want to give people the opportunity to get services not available in their areas."