RUTLAND - A new partnership between Rutland schools and the region's community health center will provide dental care for students throughout the district.
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) secured $125,000 in taxpayer funds for the Community Health Centers of the Rutland Region to establish the dental program.
Access to dental care is serious problem in Vermont and throughout the country, according to Rutland Public School Superintendent Mary Moran and Grant Whitmer, executive director of the health center.
"There are many Vermonters who have lost their teeth or who suffer a lot of unnecessary pain because, for lack of money or access, they have not been able to get to a dentist when they should," Sanders said at news conference in Rutland Jan. 15. "There are many children in this state who have untreated cavities or other dental problems who have never seen a dentist."
The Rutland school dental program builds on a successful model at the H.O. Wheeler School in Burlington. The program operated by the Community Health Center of Burlington draws students from throughout the city. A similar program just opened in Tunbridge to provide dental services for students in that region. Also, in Swanton, the Northern Tier Center for Health will soon open a year-round dental program at Missisquoi Valley Union School to serve the Franklin County community and students.
More than half of the children in the United States between the ages of five and nine have had at least one cavity, according to Sanders. Because poor oral health and pain hurts student performance, it is important to make dental services available in an environment that they and their parents trust.
The Democrats' national health care legislation is awaiting final action by Congress; it would dramatically expand the nationwide network of community health centers that provide primary care, dental care, mental health counseling and low-cost prescription drugs. However, Republicans and other big-government critics claim the Democrat legislation is socialistic and will limit patient rights as well as choice, reduce the quality of care, increase administrative and other costs, and diminish the nation's current high level of medical technology.
"Vermont is now a national leader in terms of making affordable primary health care available to all people," Sanders said. "In the coming years I hope that we will expand this community health center program to Addison and Bennington counties."
Vermont's eight federally qualified health centers and 41 satellite offices serve 113,000 patients, more people, per capita, than any other state.