Dentists headed to local public schools

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 1, 2004

[10/1/04]Drilling will include more than math and spelling under a plan approved Thursday to provide dentists at public schools here.

Also, trustees of the Vicksburg Warren School District voted to seek Medicaid and other reimbursement for providing speech, language, occupational and physical therapists to students who qualify for the federal assistance or under the more expansive Children’s Health Insurance Program.

The dental service will dispatch dentists and dental staff to each school about two to three times a year. District nurse Dru Holdiness said a company, ReachOut Healthcare America Dental Plan, will manage the service for children who do not normally or regularly receive dental checks.

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Dental work could include cleanings and fillings, Holdiness said. “Invasive but not major,” she said of the work that could be done. “Nothing to prohibit the child from going back to class.”

The one-year trial will target students who qualify for government-paid care. The company will also enroll students who might be eligible.

The program is free to the 8,800-student district. Former VWSD Superintendent Donald Oakes, now serving as interim District 5 trustee, made that part of his motion for approval.

“It’s too easy for a parent to assume that because it happened at school,” the school district will pay for the service, he said.

Dentists will be recruited locally, Holdiness said.

For the other health-related services, trustees voted to apply to become a registered Medicaid provider. The receipt of a provider number would allow the district to apply for reimbursement for services it already provides, said Susan Bentley, director of special education.

The change comes amid continuing crisis-level talks about state matching funds for both Medicaid and CHIP at legislative budget hearings in Jackson. Last week, Dr. Warren Jones, director of Medicaid, forecast a $40 million shortfall this year and said more than $100 million in new state funding would be needed to break even next budget year.

Bentley, in her first year, said she learned in earlier jobs that schools could qualify for payments as providers.

“Services will continue as they have in the past,” Bentley said.

The reimbursements will only apply to students enrolled in Medicaid, an estimated 30 to 40 percent of the students, but could yield $500,000 to $1 million per year for the district, now operating on a $72 million annual budget.

Separately, the board also heard a proposal on a new state law that allows 12 or more districts to come together (if they) want to form a consortium,” said Gail Kavanaugh, district child-nutrition director and safety coordinator. The purpose would be to negotiate with vendors for lower prices and on projects such as distance learning or using the Internet to offer students a larger choice of courses.

Kavanaugh said she had been working with a potential consortium of 26 school districts in south-central Mississippi whose goal is to develop opportunities to “pool resources, knowledge and buying power.”

In other business, the board:

Heard Staffing Solutions CEO and Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce president-elect Mike Smith encourage volunteerism in the chamber’s Adopt-a-Classroom program.

Accepted financial contributions.

Approved, as recommended by district staff, amendments to the budget for the current fiscal year, personnel changes, out-of-state travel for students, disposals and additions of assets and single-source purchases.

Granted an easement to the Culkin Water District that had been agreed upon in October 2002.