Grant delivers dental care to East Hartford students

By Frances Taylor - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Fri., Sep. 30, 2011
Tina Seekins coordinates the dental services program, and is a hygienist at O'Brien Elementary School. Photos by Frances Taylor.
Tina Seekins coordinates the dental services program, and is a hygienist at O'Brien Elementary School. Photos by Frances Taylor.

A school-based dental program for East Hartford's school children has received an $800,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The four-year grant will fund a program that brings dental care directly into the town's public schools.

“We know that needy families don't always have regular access to dental care,” said East Hartford Superintendent of Schools Mark Zito, during a press conference at Silver Lane Elementary on Sept. 29. Integrated Health Services, which operates the Galvin Dental Program, is the recipient of the grant.

The grant was one of only 12 awarded nationwide, and will allow the school-based dental program to expand to more schools, including two new magnet schools at Goodwin College. The grant will enable the program to serve more than 900 students in East Hartford.

“It’s an extraordinary opportunity,” Zito said. Zito also thanked U.S. Rep. John Larson (D-1st District), U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and state Rep. Henry Genga (D-10th District) for their help with achieving the federal grant.

“This grant will go a long way in helping IHS continue the fantastic work they do every day in providing dental services to students in East Hartford,” said Larson. “Making sure that kids have access to preventative dental care should be one of our top priorities, and I am proud we are leading the way here in East Hartford.”

The Galvin Dental Program, which was founded by local dentist Dr. Thomas Galvin, has been providing dental care for East Hartford students since 2000. Many East Hartford students are on the state HUSKY medical plan, and often have limited access to dental care. In 2008, the program began offering restorative dental care, such as filling cavities and treating gum disease.

The press conference was held at Silver Lane Elementary School, which offered the first school-based dental program in East Hartford.

Deborah Poerio, president of Integrated Health Services, said that since restorative treatment was offered in school, the rate of tooth decay dropped from 27 percent to 7 percent. By September 2010, the decay rate had dropped from 24 percent to 8.5 percent.

For the first time this year, the program will operate a special van that carries a portable dentist office to each school. The grant has enabled the program to purchase the extra equipment that will be used by the van.

“School-based health care centers provide a comfortable environment where students can receive quality medical, behavioral and dental care,” said Poerio.

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