CHIPLEY, FL 2/14/2012 --
Dental health has been an ongoing issue in Washington County for years. Because it's such a rural area, not many dentists work there, let alone ones that accept Medicaid. However, the county's health department is stepping in to help.
Childrens' dental health continues to be a big concern for health officials in Washington County.
"The rural counties have a hard time getting doctors and dentists and such to come to the counties," said Washington County Health Director Rick Davis.
Davis said the majority of students within the school system there depend on federal aid for medical care. However he didn't think any dentists in the area accept that kind of coverage.
"We think that between sixty and seventy percent of the school children in Washington County are on Medicaid," said Davis.
But he said the health department's dental clinic, which has been around for about four years, is now stable enough to take on more patients at the schools themselves.
"There are so many kids in the schools that we know are not coming here that we need to reach out and do what we can for them," said Davis.
The health department will start with Vernon Elementary this semester, then add Kate Smith next year. Every student is eligible and it's all free of charge.
"Our first priority is our childrens' health," said Washington County School Superintendent Sandra Cook.
For about the last ten years, Jackson County was providing this service with its mobile dental bus, but Davis said through Medicaid and and other federal grant money, his department can finally afford to take over.
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