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Dental bus hits highway

The Miles for Smiles bus is heading to the Front Range ” leaving a cavity that will be hard to fill.

After providing low-cost dental care and education for children in Garfield and Eagle counties for almost six years, the dental office on wheels is leaving the area for good.

For Tom Ziemann, the director of Catholic Charities, which has funded the program since 2000, the bus’s departure means it’s time to find a more permanent solution.



“It’s unfortunate we’re losing Miles for Smiles, but this signals us it’s time for us to work with other organizations to create a permanent dental clinic,” said Ziemann.

Marie Hale, the Eagle County coordinator for Miles for Smiles, said she was notified two weeks ago that the program was being discontinued.



“There’s such an enormous need here,” said Hale. “We were helping to make a difference in dental care to this population.”

She said Catholic Charities has been able to meet its funding goal of $60,000 to run the program locally, but that the other organization that funds the program, Kids in Need of Dentistry (KIND), wasn’t able to make up its $330,000 annual costs to operate the bus throughout the Western Slope.

Regionally, in 2003 alone, Miles for Smiles served almost 400 children, age birth to 18, in Garfield and Eagle counties. Patients who qualify pay a fraction of the cost of a dental appointment.

In addition, last year, program staffers visited area elementary schools, giving presentations on dental care to more than 650 students.

With numbers like that, there’s clearly a local need for a low-cost dental clinic.

“In 2003, the value of Miles for Smiles equaled $262,000,” Hale said. “It cost our patients just $41,000.”

Now, with the Miles for Smiles bus off to Denver where it will be used by KIND in some capacity, Ziemann is looking forward to a new level of local low-cost dental care ” not only for children, but for seniors and the disabled as well.

“Catholic Charities is interested in being part of a group of organizations and people who have the ability to build a permanent dental clinic,” he said.

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518

cclick@postindependent.com

miles for smiles says thanks

Catholic Charities would like to thank the following sponsors of the Miles For Smiles Program for their generous support of this program:

The Aspen Valley Community Foundation, Aspen Valley Medical Foundation, Vail Valley Cares, Wells Fargo Bank, Caring For Colorado, United Way Eagle County, United Way Garfield County, Colorado Department of Local Affairs, Eagle County Commissioners, Garfield County Commissioners, town of Basalt, and the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation.


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