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Free Clinic to Help Keep Kids Smiling

Dentists Will Volunteer; Jaycees Buy Equipment

Southern Maryland's merely at no cost medical clinic started a decade in the past as a one-day-a-week operation. Claim for health care from uninsured residents has greater than before so much that, three months ago, the clinic, Health Partners, prolonged its agenda to six days a week.

The Waldorf clinic will get bigger yet again in November when it starts contribution free dental care to uninsured children. Health Partners is responding to a greater than ever call for in Charles County for dental care for patients with state Medicaid insurance or no insurance.

"We have a lot of children in our county who need dental services, and there just are no dentists right now who are providing dental services for these kids," said Carol Wright, the clinic's board president and a registered nurse.

Under the agenda, area dentists and hygienists will volunteer to offer free oral exams and other dental services to children at the clinic. The patients have to be uninsured or underinsured and be lawful residents of Charles County, said Tim Brown, decision-making manager of the clinic.

"If our volunteer pool grows large enough, we hope to expand into adults, as well," Brown said.

Brown said the ease of use of free or low-cost dental care is defied nationwide but mainly in Maryland. Medicaid reimbursements in Maryland are lower than in some other states, which means various private-practice dentists do not believe Medicaid patients, he said.

"Probably the dentists," Wright said, "are not being paid what they need to be paid" under the Medicaid program.

Health Partners is in Waldorf on Route 301, next door to the Jaycees Community Center. The clinic has been demanding to get bigger to offer dental care for years but has not been able to purchase the exclusive equipment needed for such services, Brown said.

The Jaycees donated $40,000 this year to help the clinic purchase equipment, Brown said.

The clinic's general practice has about 1,000 regular patients, Brown said. He said there are an estimated 20,000 residents in Charles without health insurance on any given day.

County officials said it is troubling that so many county residents are uninsured. County Commissioners President Wayne Cooper (D-At Large) said he is pleased Health Partners is expanding to include dental care.

"I thought the concept for the health care programs was just super," Cooper said. "I saw how it could really help the community."

Cooper added that there's a huge need for dental care in the county, particularly in impoverished areas such as Nanjemoy. The First Baptist Church of Glenarden has been bringing a group of volunteer dentists to Nanjemoy about three times a year to provide free dental exams for children in the neighborhood, Cooper said.

"They pull teeth and do exams while they're there," Cooper said. "They come down two or there times a year and say there's a huge need."



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