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School board backs mobile dental clinic plan

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The Wilson County Board of Education voted unanimously Monday to support the Wilson County Health Department’s proposal to create a portable dental unit to serve county students.

“My first thought as the presentation was made was that we often say a hungry child has trouble learning,” said board member Henry Mercer. “A child with a toothache or hurting or discomfort would have just as much trouble learning.”

Teresa Ellen, director of the Wilson County Health Department, made the presentation.

“There are a lot of statistics in here, but it appears that there are a number of students statistically that are not getting the dental treatment that they deserve and need,” Mercer said.

“This would be hand-in-hand with the WASH (Wilson Area Student Health Clinic) program that we already have that offers health care to some of the children and it’s equally important,” Mercer said. “I was also was impressed with the idea that this can perpetuate itself. Once it is started, it can create revenue because Medicaid can be used to help reimburse some of the treatments for those who are eligible. But it also will be extended at some point to employees as well hopefully.”

The unit would be a joint venture between Wilson County Schools and the Wilson County Health Department.

“Unlike the WASH program, it is not a stand-alone building, but it is to be in the classroom,” said school board Chairwoman Christine Fitch. “The equipment is mobile and will be delivered in a panel truck. There will be two chairs. There will be X-ray capability. There will be all of the equipment that will be necessary that will be rolled into a classroom and utilized. They will develop a schedule as to where and when they will be in a particular school. For those that are not Medicaid-eligible, services could be provided on a sliding fee scale for those that do not have insurance.”

The portable unit would require an 8-by-12-foot space with three electric outlets.

“It is not meant to usurp private dentists within our area, but meant to serve as an adjunct to those students who do not have dental care,” Fitch said. “They would be able to make referrals to those dentists who accept Medicaid payment. It is not meant to take business away from any of the current dentists who are in business here.”

“It is one that is needed,” Fitch said. “The health department has looked at several of the models and the mobile unit is the one that is looking most feasible to them. We would be providing as a partner the space in our buildings for them to come, the internet access so that the records could be up uploaded electronically and it would function as a dental office, but it would be housed within our school system.”

Mercer said if the mobile clinic encountered a child that requires treatment beyond what it’s capable of, its staff will refer the child to an area dentist.

“I also thought that the data she gave us was awesome,”said board member Debora Powell. “It shows that we definitely need s portable dental unit because 77% of Wilson County students are eligible for free and reduced lunch and only 52% of Medicaid-eligible children are receiving dental services and 39% of children in Wilson County are living below poverty and only 17% of kindergarteners have untreated decay. I thought that was actual data to show that there was a need.”

“There is no question there is a need for it,” Mercer said.

Board member Beverly Boyette backed the plan.

“The startup money for this is coming from the sale of the home health (agency) that the health department did and they were reinvesting the money that they got back into the community through this,” Boyette said. “Plus, 48% of our Medicaid students are not receiving the dental services that we could get them, plus it will be a pre-K through 12 program, so the potential is there to really serve students that otherwise are not getting dental services.”

In other business, the board:

• agreed on which capital projects were most important if Wilson County elects to offer $6 million to fund the repairs.

• agreed on its $1 million priority list for the 2019-20 facilities plan.

• agreed to permit employees to participate in a state-run 403(b) retirement program.

• agreed to a new Toshiba copier contract.

• agreed to more forward with the same North Carolina alternative schools accountability model as last year.

• agreed that Speight Middle School should be added to Wilson list of Title 1 schools.

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