Mower looking to expand free dental service
AUSTIN — A Rochester nonprofit organization that now provides basic dental care for children of low-income families in Mower County wants to expand to provide the same kinds of care to teens and adults.
Julie Stevermer, director of Mower County Department of Human Services, told the county board Tuesday that Children's Dental Health Services has been doing routine testing and cleaning for those up to age 15. The nonprofit comes once a week and does its work in the department in the second floor of the Mower County office building, she said. "They are kept pretty busy," she said.
If CDHS sees a children needs more than basic work, it tries to connect the child with a local dentist, though none in the county are accepting more medical assistance patients; funding for that comes from the federal government, she said.
There are some in Rochester, Mankato and the Twin Cities who do accept teens and adults "but they are backed up six months too," she said. "The need is much greater than what is available for services."
The company realizes that teens and adults from low-income families need help too, Stevermer said. If they go too long without care, their conditions might get much worse and require visits to emergency rooms, which is more costly, she said.
"We don't think about dental care," she said. "It's just teeth, what's the big deal?"
But dental problems can lead to much serious medical issues, she said.
To be able to get a grant to begin work on adults and teens in Mower County, Children's Dental needs a member of the Mower Department of Human Services to sit on its board. She asked for, and received, the board's approval for her to be on that board.
If the program is extended, one of the first challenges would be to find a new site because the present one won't work for older patients, she said.