A 2010 Pew Center on the States report showed that one of every five children under the age of 18 in America live without dental care every year. The statistic is even higher in California, where one in four children under age 11 have never seen a dentist.
But that is about to change for students in the Lemon Grove School District with a free oral health clinic operated by UCSD on the campus of the new Lemon Grove Academy for the Sciences and Humanities.
The governing board approved two addendums Tuesday night that expand its partnership with UCSD, which has run a since 2011.
The dental clinic is funded by the School Based Comprehensive Oral Health Services Grant Program. It will initially provide free dental services to students and families at the academy or Golden Avenue School, but has the option to expand services to families at other schools in the district in the future.
Dr. Gina Potter, assistant superintendent of business services, said the partnership with UCSD has been very successful so far and the addition of dental services is highly needed for the children of the district.
“I am very excited about extending this project,” she said. “I believe we are one of the only school districts in the country to have a dental clinic on site.”
Superintendent Ernie Anastos said the board's approval is an opportunity to continue to provide health and dental services through June 2017. He said along with the grant, funding and equipment would be provided by UCSD.
“The addendum also allows for a wider range of potential family and students in the district to be served,” he said. “Originally just set up for the community at Golden Avenue Elementary this leaves services open for other schools in our district. That opens this to the entire Lemon Grove community.”
Trustee Blanca Brown said she is thankful for the staff who went through the long process of putting together a program to benefit the children of the district.
“I know it has taken a long time, but if these are the results that serve more of the community members as a whole, this piggyback of services is a benefit well worked on,” she said.
With a projected funding of about $200,000 per year, the program provides for a director to oversee the development of the dental clinic; an assistant director to supervise data collection and interpretation, and a dental clinic administrative assistant; and procurement of equipment and supplies. A second dentist and dental hygienist are included to launch the new program.
In addition to providing a healthier outlook, work at the clinic also has an eye on the future—UCSD and the district are to establish a learning program to teach students about careers and educational opportunities in the dental and medical fields.