Governor signs bill to improve dental access in rural areas
MARSHFIELD - Governor Jim Doyle today signed into law legislation that will help increase access to dental care for children and families living in rural Wisconsin by recruiting and training more dentists to work in rural and underserved areas. S...
MARSHFIELD - Governor Jim Doyle today signed into law legislation that will help increase access to dental care for children and families living in rural Wisconsin by recruiting and training more dentists to work in rural and underserved areas. Senate Bill 656 provides $10 million in bonding authority to the Marshfield Clinic to aid in the construction of a rural dental education outreach facility in Marshfield.
"The Marshfield Clinic is an innovative health care provider that has brought world-class services to rural communities in northern Wisconsin," Governor Doyle said. "With this new facility, the Marshfield Clinic will be able to help recruit and train more dentists to work in rural areas and provide much-needed dental care for low-income children and families."
Senate Bill 656 provides that before July 1, 2015, the State Building Commission must authorize up to $10 million in bonding authority in the form of a grant to the Marshfield Clinic to aid in the construction of a rural dental education outreach facility in Marshfield. Under the bill, the Marshfield Clinic must also secure an additional $10 million in matching funding from non-state sources for the project.
Marshfield's network of dental clinics provides a unique opportunity for dental residents to spend part of their training in a rural clinical setting. The goal is to connect them to rural communities and encourage more dentists to practice in rural areas once they complete their residency program. This could have a substantial impact on the pipeline of qualified rural dental students, not just in Wisconsin, but in the Midwest. Nationwide, rural counties have lower dentist-to-population ratios, a contributing factor to poor oral health in rural areas.
In addition, many low-income families in rural communities struggle to find oral health care services, even if they are on Medicaid or BadgerCare Plus, because there is not a dentist in their area who will accept them. The governor praised Marshfield Clinic for its commitment through its network of dental clinics to serve every patient that comes through the doors and refuse service to no one. Last year, nearly 75 percent of Marshfield Clinic dental patients were on Medicaid or BadgerCare Plus.
Democratic senators Russ Decker of Wausau, Mark Miller on Monona, Julie Lassa of Stevens Point and Bob Jauch of Poplar, and Democratic representatives Michael Sheridan of Janesville, Mark Pocan of Madison, Amy Sue Vruwink of Milladore and Louis Molepske of Stevens Point worked on the bill to increase dental access in rural Wisconsin.
Dental decay is the number one chronic disease of childhood - particularly among low-income kids who often do not have access to a dentist. Seventy percent of children eligible for dental care are not getting the services they need because they cannot find a dentist willing to see them.