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Logan County Department of Public Health plans to start new year with dental clinic

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[October 02, 2008]  In 2005, oral disease was identified as the No. 1 issue affecting social and long-term health in Logan County. Today, Logan County Department of Public Health administrator Mark Hilliard says that there is an increasing need for dental services by people who can't afford it. A contributing factor is that dentists are no longer accepting Medicaid patients, due to low reimbursement rates and delayed payments from the government.

The health department prioritizes goals to meet the local population's most significant health needs. Hilliard said that the department uses a health needs assessment that is done every five years to create a five-year plan. The assessment and plan are part of the department's state certification process.

InsuranceThe health department has been very successful in meeting these needs, as they have a solid network system that engages other area health care providers, primarily under the umbrella of the Healthy Communities Partnership. To address the oral disease issues, local agencies and providers devised a two-stage plan. The first phase would get oral care for kids. Next, the adult population would be addressed.

To start, the director of the Healthy Communities Partnership, Kristi Lessen, recognized that the vehicle used for the mobile health care unit that travels throughout the county was in need of replacement. Lessen researched and found that a new vehicle could be outfitted to provide basic dental care and there could even be grant funding for the advancement.

The Abraham Lincoln Healthcare Foundation, led by Marty Ahrends, spearheaded the local effort to raise additional matching funds for the project.


In November 2006, the Healthcare, Oral Health, Prevention and Education Mobile was launched. The mobile health care unit expanded its general preventive health care to include cleaning, sealants, fluoride treatment, X-rays and early cavity treatment for children through age 20.

During the H.O.P.E. Mobile dedication in November 2006, Dr. Julio Morales said that in Logan County 41 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 11 have decay in their baby teeth and 90 percent of youth to19 years of age have tooth decay in their permanent teeth. These statistics and more prompted Dr. Morales and Dr. Lee Gurga to volunteer their services on the H.O.P.E. Mobile.

A dental hygienist is employed to provide services on the mobile unit also.

Today, the health department is moving full steam ahead on phase two of the plan, which is to open a dental clinic in the health department building to also serve adults. It will offer preventive services, exams, treatments, and limited cavity and restorative oral health care. The services would be made available for people in Medicaid and All Kids programs. It would also offer services to others, with payments on a sliding scale.

Additionally, the clinic would be open to out-of-county clients in need of services. Transportation would need to be worked out, Hilliard said.

Hilliard said that in their decision-making process they talked with other dentists and clinics about what works best. The synopsis is that three exam rooms would keep the patients moving and would break even in operational costs. The health department currently has eight exam rooms; three of these will be refitted for the dental clinic.


The total cost to build the rooms, equip and staff them in the startup is anticipated to be $353,891. Each room remodel is estimated at $60,000.

In early June the health department submitted a request to Illinois Children's Healthcare Foundation for $293,068. Hilliard said that he anticipates hearing back about the grant by the end of October, and if approved, they would receive the funds in November.

The health department has budgeted $60,823 for its portion of the project.

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Remodeling would take two months, and the clinic could be ready to open by the beginning of next year. The dental clinic could be breaking even at the start of year two, Hilliard said.

The health department recently received a $10,000 grant from Delta Dental of Illinois. Of that, $8,500 is now helping local residents with toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss and education materials being distributed through the food pantry, and $1,500 has been allocated for dental hygienist time.

To access the October H.O.P.E. Mobile schedule and get contact information, click here, or call 217-735-2317 for a dental appointment for a youth.

[To download Adobe Acrobat Reader for the PDF file, click here.]


The Logan County Department of Public Health provides health education, information, home health care and public health services to the Logan County area. Its programs include asthma partnership, diabetes, environmental health, food inspections, family caregiver resources, family health, DCFS Health Works, H.O.P.E. Mobile medical unit, Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, nursing services, emergency preparedness, Pandemic Influenza Community Coalition, WIC, and teen parent services.


The Healthy Communities Partnership serves Logan County. The partnership's mission is "to improve the health and quality of life of the people and communities we serve." Its vision: "to create the healthiest community in America."

The Healthy Communities Partnership was organized under the auspices of the chamber of commerce. Founding members in the partnership include Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital, the Logan County Department of Public Health, Logan-Mason Mental Health, Family Medical Center and the Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce. Since its founding, the partnership has expanded to include 54 organizations and 14 churches.

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