Dental clinic can be saved, says social services director
MILFORD – The Caroline Dental Clinic, which is on the verge of closing, takes in about $150,000 of the $250,000 needed in operating costs and is salvageable, a county official said.
The clinic, which treats about 600 needy children annually, is scheduled to close at the end of June due to a lack funding.
However, Cynthia Green, director of the Caroline County Department of Social Services, said she and the clinic’s dentist, Dr. Elizabeth Barrett, and a former school nurse, Linda Upshaw, are leading an effort to keep the clinic afloat.
They will meet with the Mary Washington Hospital Foundation and the Central Virginia Health Alliance to determine “what is best for the clinic,” Green said this week.
The Caroline County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously June 11 to give the clinic $30,000 to keep it going while those involved with the operation of the clinic look for financial support.
“As far as I know, the Caroline Dental Clinic is the only dental office in Caroline County that accepts children covered by Medicaid,” said Green. “Without the clinic, those families would have to go to Fredericksburg or Richmond. Some families may have only one car, or if they travel to Richmond or Fredericksburg, it would mean a loss of time from work, she added.
The Virginia Health Care Foundation website (www.vhcf.org) lists only the Caroline Dental Clinic as accepting Medicaid children. It lists Medicaid-friendly dental offices in Spotsylvania, Richmond and Ashland.
The clinic, located next to Bowling Green Primary School in the Community Services Center building, opened in 2003. The county rents the space to the clinic, an expense that possibly could be cut, suggested Green.
“We will look to see if we’ve got an efficient operation as much as possible,” said Green.
“We understand that this is a difficult issue,” said Dr. Brooke Rossheim, director of the Rappahannock Area Health District (RAHD), which includes the Caroline County Health Department. “And…we’re going to support the community during the transition.”
The decision to close the clinic and others in Stafford and Spotsylvania was made by RAHD and the Virginia Department of Health central office in Richmond, Rossheim said.
“Financially we’re not in a position to support the dental program any longer,” he explained. “We simply cannot afford the operating costs.” In recent years the program has suffered “significant financial losses” and the RAHD has had to absorb the shortfall in funding.
In 2009, the clinic was in danger of closing due to state budget cuts. At that time 820 children were patients, including youngsters from kindergarten to grade 12 with Medicaid or FAMIS and those without insurance.