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Janet Sevier Gilbreath Award 2009

Rawlins County Dental Clinic

2009 Winner
Janet Sevier Gilbreath Special Project Recognition Award

The realization of a dental clinic that makes dental care available and affordable in a rural, un-served region of Kansas demonstrates pioneer spirit and determination, as well as genuine commitment to the health of Kansans.

Located in Northwest Kansas, Atwood, the largest community and county seat of Rawlins County, has schools, a hospital, a facility for the developmentally disabled, and a long-term care facility, but the area had been without a dentist for more than 10 years. Of even greater consequence, children with Medicaid coverage had nearly a six-hour round trip to the nearest dentist who would accept them.

Lance Carrithers presents the JSG award to Rawlins County Dental Clinic
Health Fund Board Chair Lance Carrithers presents the 2009 Janet Sevier Gilbreath award to Heidi Foster, Director of the Rawlins County Dental Clinic.

With this critical need for more accessible dental care, community leaders organized and gathered resources with the vision of opening a dental clinic with a dentist who would accept Medicaid and offer a sliding fee scale for those who cannot afford care.

In 2006, the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund awarded a $65,000 grant for equipment and other start-up expenses, subject to the Rawlins County group successfully recruiting a dentist and meeting requirements of dental practice laws.

However, the organization discovered legal and recruitment barriers. Dental practice laws existed that limited solutions for rural areas. Organizers had promising dental candidates decline their offers, and their efforts to find an area dentist interested in setting up a satellite clinic were not successful.

This is where determination and courage were especially evident and where Rawlins County led the way in creating new solutions for rural access. After two years of working through barriers it encountered, the Rawlins County Dental Clinic opened in April 2009 as the only safety net oral health provider in the entire region.

By the end of the year -- after nine months of operation -- the clinic had already provided 1,927 services to 956 patients, one-third of whom were uninsured. The clinic has served patients from 12 counties who now have a dental home that accepts Medicaid and offers a sliding fee scale. The clinic also provides dental screenings and outreach services to hundreds more at schools, long-term care facilities, and other locations throughout the region.

Although just starting its second year, the Rawlins County Dental Clinic has outgrown its current space and will soon move to a larger facility in Atwood purchased with the assistance of a second Health Fund grant.

In recognition of persistence and courage in addressing access to dental care, the Rawlins County Dental Clinic has been selected by the Board of Trustees of the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund to represent outstanding health ministry for 2009 with our Janet Sevier Gilbreath Special Recognition Project of the Year award. This award highlights exceptional service to those in need, volunteer and financial support, and good management and financial practices as well.

Representing the Rawlins County Dental Clinic at the award ceremony: Chris Sramek, Board President; Leroy Luedders, Board Vice-President; Heidi Foster, RDH, ECP II, CEO, Roger T. Minneman, DDS; Jody Carlson, Dental Assistant; Colby Cole, Dental Assistant; Tammi Engel, RDH, ECP II; and Lisa Olson, Office Receptionist.

Awarded May 11, 2010

Learn more about the Janet Sevier Gilbreath award