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Elaine Sullivan: Northwest Colorado fortunate to have affordable dental care

Elaine Sullivan

A smile represents more than just happiness. It is a measurement of a person’s health and personal well-being.

Preventive dental care for underserved and uninsured children, as well as adults, is a broad concern across our country.

Moffat, Rio Blanco, Routt, Jackson and Grand counties all benefit from the Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition here in Craig.

In 1997, a child suffering with a toothache was seen through the public health department.

This child’s family was financially unable to pay for dentistry, nor was it able to travel about 130 miles to the closest facility that would treat the child.

Under the umbrella of Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, the Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition was born.

Created by local community leaders sharing the same concern, and with funding made possible by the Moffat County United Way as nonprofit organization, the coalition would provide indigent dental services in Moffat County and later expanded to a mobile dental van called “Miles for Smiles.”

The van traveled to Moffat County for several weeks once a year.

With a vision and dedicated volunteers, relationships with financial contributors and agencies were established to create the Northwest Colorado Dental Clinic.

In 2002, Debi Harmon was hired as the first executive director. Debi took “baby steps” to “giant strides” in motivating contacts locally, as well as statewide.

Now, in 2009, the clinic is staffed with dentist Dana Fujita, hygienist Lyndi McDermott and assistant Deb Barger.

The clinical staff is dedicated to treating patients with caring professionalism and dedication.

Driving the business office is executive director Janet Pearcey, and receptionist Meredith Murray, who promote and work hard with the communities to expand services.

As a longtime community member, I have been serving on the coalition board since 2000.

I have seen the Northwest Colorado Dental Clinic grow and prosper. I am proud of the impact this organization has made throughout the area.

We serve uninsured adults as well as uninsured, underserved children and understand the value of the clinic.

It was not until recently its impact was felt within my own family.

My granddaughter was diagnosed with a dental condition.

Her parents, like so many others, did not have dental insurance to cover her care.

She was able to have an examination for a second opinion with Dr. Fujita. The diagnosis was confirmed, and they travelled to Denver for the dental care she needed.

She now is growing into her beautiful smile.

We are fortunate to have a resource for affordable dental care.

Thank you, Northwest Colorado, for your ongoing charitable support.


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