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Health department seeks grant for new facility

It is definitely a work in progress. The St. Francois County Health Department has a partially built dental clinic shaping up in its back rooms, but needs more money to finish the job.

Diane Williams, the director of the health department, said she is seeking a grant to help complete the facility and hire part-time clinical help. It won’t be enough to staff the facility with a full-time dentist, but she is hoping donations and volunteers will help fill the rest of the clinic’s needs.

The idea for a dental clinic at the health department started after a two-day dental clinic in 2001 showed a huge demand for dental services in the area.

During the two-day outreach, 1,671 treatments were provided, including 523 dental x-rays, 347 dental extractions, 247 tooth fillings, 78 tooth sealants and 215 dental cleanings.

The need for dental services to help the poor was clear, but solving the problem without any start-up capital wasn’t so easy.

Dennis Smith, with the St. Francois County Partnership offered $10,000 as seed money for a dental clinic.

Dr. Douglas Ross, a Farmington dentist who helped organize the two-day dental clinic said the money was a surprise.

“We didn’t have any blueprints or plans,” he said. “It was spend it in 90 days or lose it.”

They took the money and began construction on a small clinic inside the St. Francois County Health Department, but ran out of money to finish the work.

Ross said a dental clinic is something the area definitely needs, and he hopes they will someday be able to finish.

According to 2000 figures provided by Dr. Ross, there were 1,716 Medicaid/MC+ recipients for dental care.

“It’s going to take a lot of money to open a clinic,” Dr. Ross said. “We are probably at least three years away from a fully-staffed and operational clinic.”

The health department has been seeking a contractor to help them finish the work, as well as putting aside some money to get equipment.

Some equipment has already been donated to the clinic, such as an x-ray chair from a dentist in St. Louis.

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