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Rural health agency celebrates anniversary here / November 22, 2017
The Virginia State Office of Rural Health and National Rural Health Day celebrated its 25th anniversary last week at Sentara Halifax’s Dental Health Clinic, located off Hamilton Boulevard in South Boston.

The group, which works to improve health care in rural areas, brought several speakers to the event as they recognized the local dental clinic for its efforts in filling a void which exists locally in dental care.

According to Chris Lumsden, president of Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital, the clinic which opened its doors back in 2012, has served nearly 7,000 patients with about 51 percent of them children. He noted that 53 percent of the patients are Medicaid patients while at least 21 percent of them are uninsured, low-income patients with no other options for dental care.

Dr. Bridgette M. Brown, manager of the local dental clinic, said the clinic is the answer to her dream of being able to make a difference in the lives of so many of her patients. There have been times, she said, when she has gone to the hospital to help patients there with their dental problems who are recuperating from surgery or youngsters who are not physically able to come to the clinic.

She said that treatments sometimes come from “thinking out of the box,” but notes that each patient is given all the possible treatment that her office can offer. The main focus of her office is regular tooth care, taking X-rays and filling cavaties, etc.

Halifax County is, of course, not the only locality to suffer from problems stemming from insufficient dental health care. Of the 10,000 Medicaid eligible children in Sentara’s service area, 6,000 did not see a dentist during 2009. Also during that same period almost half or 49 percent of the adults in Halifax County did not visit a dentist that year with many never having gone to the dentist. Lumsden pointed out at that time only three local dentists would accept Medicaid patients and many didn’t want to take on any new patients nor did they want to treat children.

But the colorfully decorated clinic has been well received and welcomed by the community and has meant so much to those it serves.

Stewart Nelson, vice president of Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital and CFO, welcomed guests to the celebration on Thursday evening and read a proclamation from Gov. Terry McAuliffe recognizing the 25th anniversary of the State Office of Rural Health. Speakers at the event included Robert W. Hicks, deputy commissioner of Community Health Services, Heather Anderson, a director of the Division of Primary Care and Rural Health for the State Office of Rural Health, Sarah Holland, executive director of Oral Health Coalitions and Summer Sage of the Virginia Rural Health Association.

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