Dental clinic going strong under new backer
MILFORD—The Caroline Dental Clinic, which was on the verge of closing last year, is making a strong comeback, according to Dr. Elizabeth Barrett, the dentist at the clinic.
The clinic, which provides dental care for children ages 1 through 19, was scheduled to close at the end of June 2013 due to a lack of funding.
Barrett, a former school nurse, Linda Upshaw, and Cynthia Green, a recently retired director of the Caroline County Social Services Department, were the primary voices fighting to keep the clinic up and running.
The Caroline County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on June 11, 2013 to give the clinic $30,000 to keep it going while those involved with the operation of the clinic sought financial support.
The clinic, which opened in 2003, was in danger of closing in 2009 as well, due to state budget cuts. At that time, 820 children were on the active patients list, which included children from kindergarten to grade 12 with Medicaid or FAMIS, and those without insurance.
Central Virginia Health Services (CVHS) is now operating the clinic in the same county-owned building at the back of the Caroline Community Services Building along U.S. 301 in Milford where the clinic has been for years. According to Barrett, “everything has gone very well” since the organization took over the operation of the clinic.
CVHS already operated a federally-funded health clinic in Bowling Green. The board of directors of the CVHS voted June 18, 2013 to take over the clinic, but CVHS had to get approval from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to change the scope of CVHS services by adding the dental clinic.
Previously, the Rappahannock Area Health District (RAHD), which includes the Caroline County Health Department, had financial responsibility for the dental clinic. The clinic needed nearly $250,000 annually to operate, but it fell short of meeting expenses by $52,632 in 2010, $57,110 in 2011, $75,000 in 2012, and $41,488 in 2013, and the RAHD could no longer afford to carry that financial burden.
The clinic had lost money over the past four years partly because the patient load had dropped from 820 in 2009 to 600 in 2013.
Barrett said that there have been no noticeable changes for patients as far as their experience at the clinic. “We have all the same staff, with the exception of one new staff member,” noted Barrett. “We’re still in the same place.”
The current operating hours for patients to be seen at the clinic are Mondays through Thursdays 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.
The clinic sees approximately 150 to 200 patient visits per month, said Barrett. “We still have a strong association with the schools,” she noted. “Our patient numbers are stable and increasing. We had some down time when residents thought we were closed, but now that it is known that we are open, things are going very well.”
The Virginia Health Care Foundation website (www.vhcf.org) lists only the
Caroline Dental Clinic as a place in Caroline that accepts Medicaid children. It used to be that Medicaid was the form of insurance accepted at the clinic, but now the clinic will accept several types of insurance providers. The clinic also offers a sliding scale fee for children who are not covered by insurance.
“We would like to see all the children of Caroline go to a dentist somewhere, whether it is here or through a private dentist,” said Barrett. In Caroline alone, over 1,500 children are not receiving any kind of dental care, she noted.
Barrett also noted that the clinic staff would like to encourage parents to make sure the younger children, around age 1, and high school students have regular visits.
Other than wanting to see the healthy smiling faces of all the children in Caroline taken care of, Barrett said that as far as the clinic is concerned, “everything is very positive.”