Mobile dental service suspended


For local families in need, getting basic dental care just got a whole lot harder.
During Thursday’s meeting of the Wood County Board of Health, Director of Nursing Ann Smith announced the
Smile Express, the mobile extension of the Dental Center of Northwest Ohio, has been temporarily
suspended for financial reasons.
Board member Betty Woods asked the cost of the dental van’s services.
"All they did was come and park themselves, and then charge Medicaid," responded Health
Commissioner Pam Butler.
Launched in 2006, the Smile Express was the first full-time, full-service mobile dental center in
Northwest Ohio, serving low income children and adults, the frail elderly, migrant workers and others in
18 counties, including Wood County. Dental personnel in the mobile clinic provided not only simple
services like cleanings, fluoride treatments, fillings and X-rays, but even more serious services like
dentures and root canals.
According to a letter to Smith from the dental center’s president, Melinda Cree, the cost of delivering
dental treatment has increased in the last 10 years while Medicaid reimbursement rates for treatment
"have remained constant since 2000." Financial strains on the economy have made it difficult
for the dental center to get funds to support any increased costs in its delivery system.
As of June 22 the Smile Express has been temporarily suspended. Cree wrote, "Financial
considerations, including the cost of dental materials, diesel fuel and the increasing number of
families in need who do not qualify for state aid, have required DCNWO to re-evaluate its mobile
While she had hoped Medicaid issues within the state’s new budget would be decided by July 1, Cree added
the center was "diligently searching for further funding to provide moneys for overhead costs of
the Smile Express that are not covered by Medicaid reimbursement fees, such as the diesel fuel needed to
bring the Smile Express to your site."
The letter stated the center would make "every effort" to work with patients to help them get
to the center’s offices in Toledo and Findlay to continue dental treatments and emergency services.
"The Smile Express will begin running again as soon as we have the resources to operate more
efficiently and effectively," Cree added hopefully.
"We had a lot of patients use it," Smith told board members. "Hopefully they’ll come
Joanne Hayward, community services supervisor, announced some layoffs were necessary in the Help Me Grow
program due to finances. "Right now we’re running on levy money to maintain it," she said.
"We’re trying to prioritize visits to families."
Butler provided an update on the community partnerships the health department is developing with local
agencies to identify and help teens and young adults with mental health issues. The health department is
one of five in the nation who has been loaned software to do strategic planning with the agencies. Two
of the five will be chosen to receive the $60,000 software package free. After the meeting Butler said
she hopes to know within a month whether or not the health department has been chosen.
The board approved two motions to advertise, interview for and fill the positions of nurse practitioner
and clinic supervisor, both jobs being in the Nursing Division.
Members accepted the resignation of Barb Shiarla, part-time clinic services assistant, effective July 16.
She had cited personal reasons for giving her resignation.
The board entered into two clinical affiliation agreements. One is with the Northwest State Community
College Nursing Program which allows its nursing students to participate in health department programing
to gain insight into public health. The other is with BGSU’s Dietetic Internship Program to let students
work with the department’s two registered dieticians.
Members entered into a contract with the Ohio Department of Health to provide up to eight medical
specialty (hearing and vision) clinics between July 1 and next June 30.
The board held a 70-minute executive reason to discuss personnel, after which it resumed the meeting and
continued with regular business.

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