Jan 112013

The News Reporter, Whiteville

Published: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 3:00 am


Columbus County has a chance to become home to one of 10 East Carolina School of Dental Medicine Community Service Learning Centers (CSLC).

The facilities will serve as extensions of the school, with dental faculty, dental residents, dental students and other professionals living within the communities they serve via the CSLCs.

Kim Smith, county health department director, will ask commissioners Monday night to support a potential partnership with the dental school and assist with securing potential land donation prospects.

“It’s a win-win situation for our area,” Smith said of the jobs, nice facility and services the CSLC would bring to the county. “It would be really nice to have this at our back door.”

Smith said funding for the buildings is provided to the dental school but land donation is required.

“It is just very critical because the need is so great in this county,” Smith said.

The dental services provide via the Columbus County Health Department are limited typically to children, Smith said.

“We get calls from desperate adults a lot,” Smith said. “All we can do for them is a simple tooth pull.  “Dental issues if not corrected can create a whole new set of health issues. It is so important.”

Untreated problems often result in emergency room visits, officials say.

Dental emergencies accounted for more than 69,000 ER visits in North Carolina in 2009.

The legislature backed the ECU concept in 2006, as the number of dentists per capita dropped in the state.

Smith said the state is 47th in the nation today with the number of dentists per capita.

Needs in Columbus County – ranked as the least healthy county in the state for the third year in a row – are great, Smith said.

Four of the centers will provide oral heath services to vulnerable populations in rural communities with populations that do not have access to regular dental care.

Each center will serve as a regional resource and to serve not only the local community but also to surrounding counties.

“Educating dental students and residents in community-based settings while providing much-needed patient care is vital to achieving the mission of the School of Dental Medicine and East Carolina University,” according to the official written description of the project.

East Carolina University and UNC Chapel Hill were equally committed to the plan to promote more dentistry and grow the ECU Dental School. The plan was viewed as a potential nationwide model by the UNC-appointed review team and drew on the strengths of ECU’s focus on primary care and UNC Chapel Hill’s prominence as a premier research university, according to the ECU School of Dentistry publication “A Joint Plan for Dentistry with UNC Chapel Hill.

At the time, more than a fourth of all counties in the state were served by just two dentists or fewer than one for every 10,000 people. Some counties had no dentist and as many as 40 had dentists who did not accept Medicaid patients.

In 85 of the state’s rural counties, there is an average of three dentists per 10,000 people compared to an average of six dentists per 10,000 people nationally.

The item is one of several on the Jan. 7 Columbus County commissioner meeting agenda. The board meets at 6:30 p.m. today with other items to include a retirement presentation to Cleo Skipper, a former Social Services employee.

A Centennial Celebration of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority proclamation, and N.C. Catalyst grant document approval,  plus a local school board member recognition month resolution are on the agenda.

Columbus County schools are requesting additional resource officers for the schools. Aging is seeking a 10 percent ($4,000) grant match for base heath promotion funds. The airport is seeking approval of a safety and maintenance projects plan.

Cooperative Extension is seeking approval of a marketing ordinance for Down East Connect Farmers Fresh Market and a grant application, among other items on the agenda including a closed session for undisclosed economic development and contract negotiations.


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