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Dental clinic gets boost from community
Deb Delforge, director of the Fowler Memorial Free Dental Clinic, points to a section of the planned layout while talking about the nearing expansion of their clinic inside the Government Services Building, March 6. (Times photo: Anthony Wahl)
MONROE - If all goes according to plan, the Fowler Memorial Free Dental Clinic could see construction begin in three weeks to house four dentist chairs at the Government Services Building.

Deb Delforge, the clinic's executive director, has seen the need for more availability to free dental care since she began working for the clinic. The clinic has had one dentist's chair since then, and Delforge said they have "always had expansion in mind." Delforge became the clinic director in 2011.

Thanks to many donations and a federal grant for more than $50,000, Delforge now has three dentist's chairs stored at Monroe Clinic and in Oshkosh. The clinic provides services to 1- to 12-year-olds in Green County whose families can't afford dental care. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, 30 percent of Green County children between the ages of 3 and 18 are on Medicaid, and of those children, 39 percent received dental care in 2011. Delforge said there is only one dental clinic that provides care to patients on Medicaid, and the next closest clinic is in Darlington. The rest either don't seek dental care or use Fowler.

The improvements come at a time when the county board is considering building an all-new building for health and human services. This project is still a long way off from being finished, but Delforge said they are prepared to move if need be. The new equipment will be far more mobile, but in the meantime she said the improvement is necessary.

"The community needs our services," she said.

According to the 2012 annual report, the Fowler Dental Clinic had more than 460 appointments in 2012 and more than 900 clocked hours from volunteers. Delforge said those numbers have only been expanding.

Bill Bethke, a three-year volunteer for the clinic, said the clinic grows every day.

"It's pretty exciting to see it come this far," he said.

Bethke helps schedule appointments, and he said when he first started everything was still done on paper with no electronic filing. Now the office is more modernized and even the volunteer dentists get their own computer.

"We never ask Deb what's new, because something always is," Bethke said. "And that's a good thing."

Delforge said there are 10 area dentists who have offered to volunteer, but they do not have the room or time to accommodate them. Delforge said they will improve on the current waiting area at the Government Services Building to house the new equipment and offer space for dentists and some of their staff.

With the March 31 deadline for people to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act fast approaching it could effect the clinic, but Delforge said there will always be a need for free care.

"My best day ever would be to call one of my dentists and say, "Guess what, you can go golfing - we don't have any appointments," she said.