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Selection of clinic providing dental screenings to local students questioned at school board meeting

Sunnyside School Board members received an ear full last night regarding the request for proposal (RFP) process procedures used when seeking dental screening services for the elementary schools in the district.

Susana Wells-Sandoval of Central Washington Health Foundation and Dr. James Stevens, a local dentist, both spoke to the board about the need to be fair and equitable when selecting a dental provider for the screening program.

Wells-Sandoval told the board she works with dentists that provide services to children served by Medicaid.

"I'm interested in knowing what the Sunnyside School District's screening program will look like," she said.

Wells-Sandoval said she is most interested in knowing if students taking advantage of the screening service will be referred to their own dentists for follow-up care.

"Sunnyside has numerous dental care providers," she continued, stating some local dentists are concerned that their patients are being led to believe they need to receive follow-up care through the current provider of screening services, Community Dental Center.

Wells-Sandoval said the majority of children not currently receiving dental care are older students.

"They are independent and often throw away the forms," she said, noting older children often decide they do not want to take advantage of screening services.

Some discussion regarding what services have been provided via the district's dental screening program ensued. It was determined that the program included screenings, fluoride treatments, education and sealants. Those services are typical of other dental screening programs, as well.

Sunnyside School Board President Miguel Puente said the dental community has been outspoken and the issue has highlighted "...a commitment to sharing and caring about students."

Stevens said, "I understand dentistry fairly well and I understand community fairly well."

He said he doesn't provide services to children, but he believes the Sunnyside dental community has been looking at the screening program from the outside and sees it as flawed.

"The private sector looks at the program as if it is a marketing tool," said Stevens, noting that Community Dental Center has a mascot, Chomp, that visits the classrooms and the center provided bobble-heads of the mascot to teachers.

"This wasn't a fair process...it was legal, but it wasn't fair," Stevens said, acknowledging the RFP was advertised in the legal notices of the newspaper.

He told the school board he believes phone calls to dental care providers could have been made, letting local dentists know the district was seeking proposals for the dental screening program.

"Some of us have been locked out," said Stevens, noting several dental care providers have expressed an interest in joining forces to offer services in a collaborative effort.

Sunnyside School District Superintendent Dr. Rick Cole said the board still has a voice regarding future services. However, Sunnyside Community Hospital will be managing dental services at the John Hughes Student Health Center.

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