Community Organizations meet to discuss ways to keep dental clinic open

The Vanderburgh County Health Department and several organizations met Friday for what will surely be the first of many meetings to discuss the future of the Vanderburgh County Dental Health Clinic.

The clinic's lead dentist will move onto another job at the end of the month.

"Oh, you don't function very well at all. It's pretty painful. Tooth ache's probably most severe pain you can undergo," says Steven Price, one of the clinics more than 5,000 patients.

Price says he came to the clinic three separate times just this past week.

"It's a crying need," says Dr. Ray Nicholson, health officer at the Vanderburgh County Health Department.

Health officials say they understand the importance of keeping the clinic open.

The problem is a lack of funding.

"We've identified some funds to keep it open part time for a couple months, maybe two months max. If we cannot get fresh financing the clinic will have to close," says Dr. Nicholson.

He says that's a scenario community leaders are trying avoid.

Leaders from the United Way, Echo Community Health Care and other organizations held a private meeting Friday afternoon.

"We have enough people who are very interested, they're vested, interested in seeing this problem solved," says Dr. Nicholson.

One possibility being discussed is Echo Community Health Care taking over.

"Our board is at this point just examining what the possibilities would be. Does the dental clinic and its services fall with in the mission of our organization," says Sandee Stader-McMillen, CEO of Echo.

One thing is clear, the need for the clinic is there.

When asked what he would have done with out the clinic, Price says, "That's a good question. I don't' know. I would have suffered."

The clinic will be open and operating under its normal hours until July 30th. After that Dr. Nicholson says he hopes to have it open part-time for a couple months, or however long funds last.

Copyright 2012 WFIE. All rights reserved.