Local kids to get free dental care

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

A retired Sweet Home dentist is behind the creation of a program that he hopes will bring needed dental care to children across Oregon.

Dr. Mike Goger, who operated a practice in Sweet Home for 23 years before he retired in 1996, explained the proposition to the District 55 School Board Monday night. Goger is the chairman for the ODF committee organizing the program.

With some $750,000 in funding derived from the Dental Foundation of Oregon (DFO), Oregon Dental Services (ODS) and the Oregon Education Association (OEA) Choice Trust, the DFO assembled a van with two seats and a reception area and have covered the first year of operation.

The van will visit school districts and park for a week, Goger said. It will return again later in the year to follow up with patients.

Sweet Home will be among the first school districts to receive the free service starting in September, Goger said. Also served in the first five weeks will be Scio, Lebanon and Central Linn.

“We’re going to go to a community, screen children, work with student health nurses and do comprehensive dental treatment while we’re here,” Goger said. The combined mission statement of the three organizations behind the project “is to improve the oral health for the children of Oregon.”

Oregon is the seventh worst state in the nation for tooth decay in grades one through three, Goger said, and in terms of missed school and emergency room visits for tooth problems.

“Our goal is to leave no child in pain,” Goger said. Before the van leaves, the dental team will make sure no child has any urgent needs.

“The van is here to meet the basic needs and make these kids healthier,” Goger said.

The success of the program depends on volunteers and contributions to the program, Goger said. He will volunteer his time, along with Dr. William Ten Pas, ODS vice president of dental services, in the initial visit to Sweet Home.

Having visited Sweet Home four times with the Medical Teams International van, a month ago most recently, he has a list of 10 to 12 students who need dental attention, and they’ll get priority when he arrives.

“They’re my patients,” Goger said. “I’m coming back to see them.”

While he goes to work on patients, Ten Pas will perform an initial examination on new patients for a day and then go to work on those with the most need, Goger said. The program is based on need and priority is given to underprivileged children, but the program won’t say no to children whose parents are unable to pay the difference on their dental benefits.

Parents will need to sign consent forms for their children to participate in the program, Goger said.

The program is based on a similar program in South Dakota, where Goger volunteers for a week each year. Since retiring, Goger also volunteers in Cambodia.

Ultimately, Goger would like to expand the program to four or five vans that work regionally throughout the state, he said.

Present at the meeting were board members Ken Roberts, Chanz Keeney, Jeff Lynn, Diane Gerson, Chairman Mike Reynolds, Leena Neuschwander, David VanDerlip, John Fassler and Jason Redick.

In other business, the board:

– Agreed to allow the construction of a forestry competition and practice field along the back side of the baseball field off 18th Avenue.

The location, between the bus barn and the baseball field will still have enough room for up to four tennis courts, Supt. Larry Horton said.

– Hired Larry Johnson on a contract as high school assistant principal for next school year. Johnson is retired but has worked on contract twice before. Brad Sperry resigned, leaving the position open for next year.

– Accepted a $30,000 match from Sweet Home Economic Development Group for top soil donations.

– Accepted the resignations of Diedre Little, science at the junior high; Tim Little, health, physical education and basketball coach at the high school to move closer to family in Idaho; Donna Houston, .2 full-time equivalent counselor at Holley; Carol Cadwell, special education and basic life skills, high school; and Stephanie Martin, special education and speech pathologist.

– Hired Toby Winningham as a temporary elementary teacher at Foster; Tim Swanson, intermediate, Holley; Mary Cascio, intermediate, Oak Heights; and Dana Simonson, .5 FTE special education, junior high.

– Accepted the resignation of Connie Mae as .5 FTE Tite I teacher at Foster and hired her as a .5 FTE Title I coordinator.

– Approved new health and physical education curriculum.

– Accepted donations to the Forestry Club and construction class, including a drop box from Jimmy Tack, two spools of cable and hydraulic line cutter from Clint McCollum and lumber to build a small utility building from Parr Lumber Company.

– Accepted 475 cubic yards of top soil from Eric Sheets, Canyon Creek Development.