SIKESTON -- A national move mandating dental care services for Medicaid patients has made a stop in Sikeston.
Members from the Semo Health Network, Delta Health Network, Community Health Development, Missouri Primary Care Association and others from the medical field gathered Tuesday at the Delta Health Network to discuss plans for a dental clinic in Sikeston.
"This isn't just a story in Sikeston. It's across the state. The federal government has been encouraging states to open accessible points of dental care for people who can't afford it elsewhere," said Daniel F. Brachman, chief executive officer at Semo Health Network in New Madrid.
Social worker Stacey Dame of the Scott County Health Department said the area is lacking dentists who accept Medicaid Plus. She said it's just simple economics. "MC-Plus doesn't pay what insurance groups will pay. For example, the bill may be $100, and MC-Plus might give $30 and an insurance group will give back $70," she explained.
It's not that area dentists are cold-hearted and don't care -- it's just that they wouldn't be able to operate their businesses if they accepted Medicaid, Dame added.
Dame said the Scott County Health Department refers a lot of people to the New Madrid Dental Clinic. "I think it's safe to say a lot of the kids in Scott County don't see a dentist," Dame noted. The dental clinic "is very needed, and I think it will be a wonderful addition to the community."
Currently there are dental clinics in New Madrid and Kennett, which is where many doctors and health departments from six counties in the Bootheel refer patients.
Dental Medicaid patients are accepted at the dental clinics for general dental screenings and follow up work based on current eligibility for Missouri Medicaid.
A Sikeston Dental Clinic is scheduled to open in June 2003 at the River Birch Mall. Brachman said there will be enough space to hold four dental chairs and no one will be turned away.
"We've been looking at space and working with architects for quite some time," Brachman said. "We just wanted to take a day to meet with the community."
Throughout a 12-hour period Tuesday, four sessions were held to discuss the dental clinic. Over 100 area dentists were invited to attend the discussion Tuesday and Brachman and Delta Health Network Director Toby A. Turner were hoping to receive some input from them.
Roy Thomas Waltrip, M.D., attended the second session. He's been a physician in Sikeston for 44 years.
"It sounds great and exciting," Waltrip said. "I know there's a need for the uninsured and low income people."
Waltrip's only concern was that the clinic didn't interfere with the clientele of other practicing dentists in Sikeston.
Community Health Development Specialist Charles J. Wiltraut, of Allentown, Pa., assured he's never seen a hospital, practitioner or health department go out of business due to a clinic. "If anything it's a collaboration between the clinic and these other sources to exchange ideas and information," he said.
The community health center program is a federal program (federally qualified health center or FQHC) that has been serving communities across the United States for over 30 years. Community health centers are located in federally designated medically under served areas that are calculated by four variables.
The services, staff and location is based on needs from data collected within a region. Core services include primary, dental and mental care.
One of the main reasons for implementing a clinic in Sikeston is a lack of transportation from one city to another. "I attended a meeting in Potosi over the summer and I was surprised by how many people were referring their patients to New Madrid's dental clinic," Turner said. "That was the closest clinic available to them."
The new dental clinic will be modeled after New Madrid's clinic, Brachman said. It will provide a full-range of prevention services and focus on children. Some of these services include cleanings, fillings, exams, fluoride treatments, root canals, surgeries, crowns and bridges and dentures.
"This is well beyond a dream," Brachman said about Sikeston's dental clinic. "We just wanted to make sure we were meeting a clinical need and have it verified by the community."