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Proposed Roaring Fork Valley dental clinic would serve low-income, uninsured

John Colson
Aspen Correspondent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

ASPEN, Colorado ” Efforts are under way to create low-cost dental clinics to serve low-income and uninsured residents in the Aspen-to-Parachute region.

They would follow a model used by a clinic that opened two years ago in Summit County, said Liz Stark, director of the Community Health Services, an Aspen nonprofit. She is working with regional health-care officials and social services departments, hoping to launch one clinic within the next year or two.

She said there is another low-cost dental clinic planned for Rifle, to be operated by another nonprofit, Mountain Family Health Center in Glenwood Springs. The Rifle clinic is to serve the population centers along the Colorado River Valley with a combined medical and dental facility, while the Glenwood clinic will remain strictly for medical purposes, she said.



For low-income and uninsured residents of the Roaring Fork Valley, the hope is to establish a dental clinic somewhere in the midvalley area, so that prospective patients are not forced to travel to Rifle for care.

In a presentation to the Pitkin County commissioners this week, Stark described the goal as “a safety-net dental plan that will provide treatment” to those not being served by traditional for-profit dentists.



Some 35 area officials met Feb. 20, according to Stark, including “local dentists, nonprofit directors, foundation funders and health and human services leaders.”

Pitkin County Health and Human Services Director Nan Sundeen, who helped set up the February meeting, said the presentations included reports of “really significant dental needs that are not being met,” although a limited number of dentists are offering affordable rates for low-income and uninsured residents.

“It’s a huge problem,” said Karen Meier-Binde of the Resource Connections division in Garfield County. “A lot of our kids don’t [get] the dental care that they need,” which can lead to poor eating habits, inattentiveness in school, chronic pain and other difficulties.

In her memo to the county commissioners, Stark said there “was an incredible amount of positive energy and enthusiasm” for the idea, and she said “a small work group was formed at the end of the meeting” to work on the plan.

The first step will be to apply for a grant called “Cavity Free at Three,” a program funded by various foundations around the state that is designed to educate kids about the value of dental hygiene.

The working group also will seek grants to help pay for a feasibility study of the community’s level of need, as well as for a building in which to house the clinic, possibly from the Care For Colorado foundation or other private sources, as well as some state funds.

Stark noted that local officials visited the Summit County clinic and learned that it started largely with government backing. These days, it is housed in a county building but operates independently, using a combination of client fees and private grants with minimal government support.

jcolson@aspentimes.com


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