Getting To The Root Of The Matter

Donna by Dental ChairIt’s National Children’s Dental Health Month. Go brush your teeth and come back and read this post with a fresh mouth. Ah….you smell good. (Speaking of smelling good, Emily Kobza tells me that yesterday we gave out our last men’s deodorant. Yikes! So, faithful readers, if you are able, drop off some deodorant to our office and help us help our kids with their personal hygiene.)

We thank those 70 plus of you who recently turned out to celebrate the beautifully renovated space at the Edison School Based Health Center. We especially thank the children who helped us prepare and celebrate. A special shout out to State Senator Tonya Schuitmaker and State Representative Sean McCann for attending and for their long-term support of the health center.  Thanks also to Jeff Brown, State Director for Communities In Schools of Michigan, for for making the trek from Lansing. We  appreciated the presence of Mayor Bobby Hopewell, City Commissioners Don Cooney and Barb Miller, County Commissioner Carolyn Alford and all the great Edison staff. And thank you TowerPinkster for creating a beautiful, usable space to care for our children.

The post below, written by Donna Carroll, Director of Health Initiatives appeared just last week in “Beyond the Classroom,” the official blog of our National CIS office.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 51 million school hours are lost each year due to dental related problems. Lack of access to oral health care unfairly impacts children from racial and ethnic minorities as well as children from low income families. These children suffer untreated tooth decay at more than double the rate of children from more affluent families.

Yet, tooth decay is almost completely preventable. What kind of country are we if we do not address this issue? How can we expect a child to excel academically if their tooth aches or they are suffering from an abscess?

Recognizing that dental problems represent the single biggest untreated health issue facing our children, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo has been strategically working with community partners to increase access to dental services for Kalamazoo Public Schools students, especially those who are Medicaid eligible or without insurance.

Creating access and developing a different way to deliver dental services doesn’t happen overnight. We have worked hard over the past seven years to build relationships with Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services and the Family Health Center to bring their expertise to where our children are…in the schools.

We began with the county providing preventive care to students. Hygienists arrived at the school and Site Coordinators would help them set up in a room where they could do cleanings, x-rays, and fluoride treatments.

As wonderful as this was, it wasn’t enough. Two thirds of children receiving preventive care needed follow up to treat cavities.

Three years ago, Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services acquired a dental van. Known as the “Smiles to Go” van, it enables our partner to travel from school to school, providing not only preventive services but also has a dentist on board two days a week to handle fillings and other restorative care.

ESBHC Info SheetJust last year, Family Health Center, in collaboration with Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, received a federal grant to put a dental facility in an elementary school based health center located at Edison Environmental Science Academy. Staffed by a hygienist four days a week and a dentist one day a week, Edison has provided dental care to 287 kids in the first quarter of this school year alone.

CIS provides the infrastructure within the school to allow these dental services to reach the kids who need them. Our Site Coordinators distribute and collect the necessary permission forms, check the information, follow up with parents, create the schedules and get the kids to the dental experts.

For many of the children we serve, transportation is a barrier and keeping appointments outside of the school setting can pose a hardship for families. Having access to dental care within the school setting is huge for our kids. We are proud to be a part of a community that refuses to allow dental decay, or what the U.S. Surgeon General has referred to as a ‘silent epidemic,’ to wipe out the hopes and dreams of our kids.

Check out our picture album on our facebook page. (Photos taken by Freshwater Photography.) Also, tune in tomorrow (Wednesday) by 8a.m. to WKZO, 590 AM and catch Donna live, along with Jenee McDaniel, our CIS Site Coordinator at Loy Norrix talking with Lori on The Lori Moore Show.