One-time grant totaling $279,000

Published 10:34 am Friday, March 7, 2008

By Staff
approved by commissioners
Staff Writer
Beaufort County commissioners approved a $279,000 one-time grant to the Agape Community Health Clinic Thursday to establish a dental practice at the clinic.
The item was added to the board’s agenda only after the Rev. David Moore requested the funds during the public comment period at the outset of the meeting. The clinic has already purchased dental imaging and other equipment for the practice it hopes to set up within the next year but currently has no funding to attract the necessary personnel to provide dental services, according to Moore, who runs the clinic.
The clinic provides emergency health care to the poor and indigent, who do not have or cannot afford health insurance, in an effort to ease crowding at Beaufort County Hospital’s emergency room, he said. It would provide the same cross section of the population with dental care.
Local private-practice dentists have a cap placed on the number of Medicaid patients they can see primarily because the Medicaid reimbursement is so low, Moore said. That and the lack of dental professionals in eastern North Carolina has resulted in a number of area residents with dental problems that routinely bring them to hospital emergency rooms, he said.
Moore said the one-time appropriation would cover the cost of remaining equipment needs and pay the first-year salary of a dentist and a dental hygienist. He expressed hope that both positions could be recruited from this year’s dental-school graduating classes. After the first year, he said the operation would be able to continue by way of state and federal reimbursements. He said the clinic would also seek to partner with the new dental school at East Carolina University to provide dental care to the poor and indigent in Beaufort County.
A motion to award $100,000 up front and spread the remaining $179,000 over a 12-month plan was made by Commissioner Al Klemm. Commissioner Hood Richardson tried to amend the motion to say the appropriation would a no-interest loan to be repaid over a five-year period.
Commissioner Stan Deatherage promise a vote in the affirmative as long as the appropriation were made in the form of a loan. The amendment failed with only Richardson and Deatherage voting to approve it.
Klemm’s original motion passed five to two.
Commissioner Ed Booth agreed that the clinic should try to fulfill the need for dental services in the county.
In other business, the board voted to remove all automated phone systems, regardless of language, from all county phone systems. That vote was taken with the stipulation that interpreters be retained at county agencies that provide them for non-English-speaking clients.