Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
Bul lhook Communi ty Heal t h Center is applying for a state grant to help fill in a service that seems to be in great demand in the county: adding another dentist to the Havre medical community. “We need dental here, we definitely need it,” said Cindy Smith, executive director of Bullhook Community Medical Center. Smith said Bullhook is applying for money made available by the 2007 state Legislature for community health centers, including money specifically for dental services. The grant could provide up to $200,000 for two years to help pay for bringing a dentist in, she said. The next Legislature would have to re-authorize the funding for it to be available again, she added. “Hopefully, by year three we will be pretty well self-sustaining,” Smith said. Smith outlined Bullhook’s proposal during a meeting Friday of the Hill County Health Consortium, created in 2003 to help find ways to better provide health care in the county. The clinic is now looking for support in its grant application, such as letters of support from organizations in the county which want dental coverage increased. Bullhook, created as a county-operated clinic in 2005, became a private nonprofit business last summer and has moved to a new location just east of Northern Montana Hospital. It offers basic medical services to the community. It also offers reduced fees to people with low incomes on a sliding scale, based on annual income. Members of the consortium said there are many people in the county who have a hard time finding dental care due to a shortage of providers and lack of services where people can use programs like Medicaid and the state Childrens Health Insurance Program. “We have children out there who have big issues,” said Arlys Williams, who teaches at Montana Stat e University-Northern and practices as a pediatric nurse practitioner at Northern Montana Hospital. Smith, who was the Hill County director of nursing before taking her position at Bullhook, agreed. She said at the Health Department she used to see people who pulled their children’s teeth themselves because they couldn’t afford care or were not able to get an appointment due to the shortage of dentists. Bridget Beach of Hi-Line Recovery said that when she first moved to Havre it took eight months to find a dentist who could take her family as patients and another eight months to schedule an appointment. She scheduled appointments to get her children’s teeth cleaned in the meantime some 1,600 miles away when she was back visiting family, she said. Charles Grant said the lack of coverage could be hurting performance in schools as well. It would be hard for a student to concentrate with a toothache, he said. “There may be people out there who may be geniuses that missed the boat because they had bad teeth,” Grant said. Smith said that while the dental services would be open to everyone in the area, top priority would be given to scheduling people using programs like CHIP and Medicaid, and a block of time would probably be set every week for people from the hospital’s long-term care center. Space for Bullhook to lease for the dental office is available in the complex where the clinic is operating. Smith said Bullhook has already found equipment to put in the office if it receives funding. It will cost about $140,000 to equip three rooms with basic equipment such as chairs, X-ray machines, hand tools and laboratory equipment. The dental office would initially have a dentist, dental hygeinist and a receptionist, she said. Health center is also in contact with a university to bring a dentist in if the proposal is successful, Smith added. While the space for the dental office only has room for one dentist at the moment, the dental staff at Bullhook could increase in the future, Smith said. “I don’t have enough room to say we can get another soon,” she said. “Maybe we will look at that later.” The application for the grant is due Jan. 23. Smith said asked the organizations at the consortium meeting to have letters of support turned in as soon as possible, and offered sample letters that could be used in preparation. Because the application is limited to 30 pages, including letters of support, she asked that groups of organizations sign the same letter to show their support without requiring too many pages in the application. For more information about the proposal, the grant application and how to show support, Smith said people can contact Christ ina Petersen, Bullhook’s health information officer, at 265-4541.