Waldo County Dental Clinic should be model for Maine

Despite the efforts of many, access to affordable dental care remains an unsolved problem in much of Maine. Just last year, a report authorized by the state Legislature confirmed once again the contributing factors as the state's rural geography, maldistribution of dentists, the lack of dental insurance, and low MaineCare reimbursement rates.

In fact, the issues that contribute to the state's oral health crisis have changed very little since I held the post of Director of the Maine Office of Dental Health in the Maine Department of Health and Human Services from 1980-1988, more than 25 years ago. Back then, our main strategy was prevention and featured well-established public health interventions of community water fluoridation, school-based dental health education and sealant programs. Since then, the funding for these vital and cost-effective interventions has all but dried up, and along with the state's lagging economy, has contributed to the growing epidemic of untreated dental problems in Maine.

But in Waldo County, local leaders made the decision to take the matter of dental care access into their own hands. On July 8, these same leaders gathered to cut a big red ribbon that officially opened the doors of Waldo County Dental Care. Miraculously, the goal of creating the clinic was established only 9 months prior to seeing the first patient, leaving many of us present at the ceremony scratching our heads wondering how they managed to pull off such an incredibly complex challenge in such a short period of time. The clinic, which serves low income adults exclusively, requires that patients have not been seen by a dentist in 12 months, live in Waldo County, meet federal income guidelines and be at least 18 years of age the very population that has the highest need for dental care and for whom there are the fewest resources in Maine.

Looking behind the scenes, I discovered the secret to the project's success it is about people and their passion, such as Mark Biscone, Waldo County General Hospital's chief executive and a well-known can-do kind of guy; Dale Kuhnert and Lee Woodward, members of the hospital's Board Executive Committee; and the entire WCGH Board, aided by a group of community-minded dentists including John Slaughter, DDS, Allison Piper, DDS, John Lewis, DDS and Edward Zanca, DMD.

The list of names of those involved in getting the clinic up and running is testimony to the depth and breadth of support for the effort: Shannon Robbins, RN, from Belfast Public Health Nursing; Michelle Gallant, RDH; Nancy Foreman; Susanne LaValle from the Maine Board of Dental Examiners; Leslie Culbert, CDA; Dennis Martin from Patterson Dental; Keirsten Wyman and Melissa Moody from Waldo County CarePartners; Katherine Young from the Lincoln County Dental Program; Kathy Cole from MaineHealth; and many others. Their list of funders is equally impressive: athenahealth, Bank of America and the Doree Taylor Foundation, in addition to major financial support from WCGH.

Waldo County Dental Care is truly the product of an entire community working together to meet a critical local need. I commend Waldo County General Hospital for its well-deserved reputation of being a leader in community health improvement and hope other communities in Maine take note of their impressive achievements. The MaineHealth system is proud to count WCGH as a member hospital.

Deborah A. Deatrick

Senior Vice President, Community Health, MaineHealt

Maine Coastal Regional Re-entry Center Waldo County Garden Project shines

Most of you are familiar with the garden project that the Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center operates on Route 141 in Swanville. A brief history of the garden would be that it was developed four years ago on 5 acres of leased land and the clients of the Reentry Center would volunteer time each week to assist me I also am a volunteer in the operation of this project. The first year the garden project produced 7,000 pounds of fresh vegetables. The second year, the garden generated 11,000 pounds, and the third year it produced 20,000 pounds of fresh vegetables. This year, through the efforts of Reentry Center clients and me, 26,200 pounds of fresh vegetables was harvested. This produce was shipped to approximately 20 entities in Waldo County including food cupboards, Senior Spectrum, The Game Loft, and a few churches.

I would like to report that the clients from the Reentry Center are extremely proud of this project and are very pleased to have the opportunity to give something back to the citizens of Waldo County. For example, there is one client who has volunteered for every single shift in the garden since the day he came to the Reentry Center.

The garden project has proven to be more successful than we ever realized it would be. The clients from the Reentry Center have been dependable, willing and cooperative in making this project successful, and we thank them for that. The really good thing that we like about this project is the hundreds of pounds of vegetables that we are able to ship each week to the food cupboards and other entities that we supply. It’s not uncommon for us to produce and ship a ton of fresh vegetables a week during the height of the growing season. For example, one day we picked 1000 cucumbers – and that is just one vegetable – in one shift and we are, on average, picking two to six different vegetables a day.

We receive many expressions of appreciation in the form of cards from citizens thanking us for the produce that they receive each week. Also, I would like to note and thank Sheriff Story who has been a staunch supporter of this project from day one, and Corporal Christopher Albert who has been very active in keeping schedules organized and changed at a moment’s notice. Special thanks to Bill Browning who has the task of seeing that these vegetables arrive on time and at the right location three days a week.

Bill Shorey, Chairman of the Board of Waldo County Commissioners and Project Manager of the MCRCC Waldo County Garden Project