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Commissioners fund mobile dental unit

Also approve EMS South Station in Black Creek

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Wilson County students will have more access to dental care after commissioners unanimously approved funding for a mobile dental clinic Monday.

The Wilson Area School Health Dental Program is a joint venture between the Wilson County Health Department and Wilson County Schools. The program will provide quality clinical and preventative dental services to school-aged children and pregnant women in Wilson County who have Medicaid or are uninsured, officials said. The program will go hand-in-hand with the Wilson Area Student Health Clinic program offering health care for children at Forest Hills Middle School and Beddingfield High School.

The school system will designate a room for the services. Commissioners appropriated roughly $535,000 for the program Monday. A little more than half of that figure goes toward the initial investment and includes a box truck, two dental chairs, two carts that contain apparatuses, four carts of dental supplies, portable sterilizer, a hand-held X-ray device and computers. Wilson County Health Director Teresa Ellen said all the equipment will be customized with wheels for portability. Commissioners also approved staffing positions for the program, including a full-time dentist, dental assistant and office assistant.

Commissioner Chair Rob Boyette asked Ellen if she is looking at a Jan. 1 start date for the program.

“We would like to start as soon as we can hire a dentist,” she said. Ellen said she’s already reached out to the state’s office of rural health and will be contacting dental schools at East Carolina University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The position will also be advertised. Ellen said it will take about six weeks to get the equipment.

Ellen expects to earn around $255,000 in revenues through Medicaid reimbursements with the program.

The program aims to target children who have Medicaid or are uninsured and do not have a dental home. Last month, commissioners and the board of education voted unanimously in support for the program. Commissioners are using funds from the sale of the county’s home health to be used for the program.

Dental decay is one of the most common childhood diseases. Only 52% of Medicaid-eligible children in Wilson County are receiving dental services, Ellen has said. And 17% of kindergartners have untreated tooth decay. Studies have shown that children with poor oral health are more likely to experience dental pain, miss school and underperform academically.

BLACK CREEK EMS SITE

Commissioners also unanimously approved the decision to build an additional emergency medical facility in Black Creek as the site for its new South Station.

Last month, the county’s EMS committee recommended that the county pursue new construction for the EMS South Station in Black Creek. The full board voted for that recommendation Monday night.

While the specific location in Black Creek hasn’t been decided yet, the town has agreed to donate the land and supply a water and sewer connection for the station. Areas discussed have included land on Church Street and Central Avenue. The county began sitting aside money for the EMS South Station in a capital reserve fund, which is at $475,000, fully funding the project.

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