Students across Sampson County will now have access to dental care provided by KINSHIP, a mobile dental program offered through CommWell Health and Sampson County Schools.
The new 40-foot fully equipped mobile dental clinic will provide comprehensive oral services to the students in the Sampson County districts. This program was established by CommWell Health in 2012, as a partnership with the school system, to provide dental services for those unable to receive care other ways. While services aren’t free, a sliding fee scale is used for those who do not have private dental insurance or Medicaid.
“Good oral health is essential to overall health, but quality oral care is out of reach for too many children throughout our state and around the nation,” Pam Tripp, CEO of CommWell Health, said. “We are excited that the CommWell Health mobile dental program will help overcome barriers to oral care for children in southeastern North Carolina. We are grateful for our partnership with Sampson County Schools that made this program possible. Together, we will continue working to make sure that all children have access to the oral care they need to grow up healthy.”
A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Tuesday morning for the dental clinic with remarks from Tripp and other supporters. Gary Mac Herring, member of the CommWell Health Board of Directors, expressed how he hopes the ceremony will be the first of many ribbon cuttings to come through the partnership. Pastor Roy Johnson, chaplain of CommWell Health, gave the invocation and said it was another tool to give care.
Through the program, a dentist and a dental assistant are able to provide examinations, X-rays, fluoride treatments, cleanings, sealants, extractions, restorations and crowns.
When the program was first established, the organization used portable dental equipment to provide care to four schools in the Union district of Sampson County. In the first year, CommWell Health dental colleagues provided 2,156 procedures for 290 students, showing the need for the mobile dental clinic.
According to Tripp, in 2016, CommWell Health received an operational and capital grant for $350,000, annually, from the Health Resources and Services Administration to enhance the program. That funding has allowed CommWell Health to purchase the mobile dental unit, better accommodating the needs of the local students.
Within the mobile unit, there are two fully operational treatment rooms and the capability to take x-rays. Additional funding will be utilized to support a full-time dentist and dental assistants to staff the mobile unit. Beginning this school year, the dental services will be provided on site at all Sampson County schools.
“All children deserve access to comprehensive dental care and to be free of dental pain and decay,” Dr. Eric Bracy, Sampson County Schools superintendent, said. “CommWell Health’s mobile dental program is another way to expand care to children in Sampson County.”
Bracy participated in the ribbon cutting with assistant superintendents Dr. Wendy Cabral, Col. Tommy Macon and representatives of the district and CommWell Health.
Before the ribbon was snipped, Tripp spoke about Deamonte Driver, a 12-year-old who died after a tooth infection affected his brain. She said it’s something she wants to avoid in Sampson County. She hopes to never see the bus at the office.
“Because I want it to be on the roads, I want it to be in the schools, I want it helping the children,” Tripp said. “I know that it will, because we have this amazing dedicated staff at CommWell Health. All they want to do is serve and help and I salute them today as many of them are standing among you.”
Tripp said that dental care is one of the single greatest unmet needs among children nationwide. In an effort to combat the problem locally, dental care will be provided to a projected 1,410 students during the 2017-18 school year.
According to Tripp, Sampson County is considered a health professional shortage area for dental services, which means there is a need for more dental care providers in the county. Many of the children who are serviced through the dental program experience barriers in receiving dental care because of financial or transportation needs.
Chase Jordan contributed to this article. Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.