June 15, 2013

Dental clinic services for Maine's disabled expected to continue

The services of a state-run dental clinic that closed Friday will be contracted out to Community Dental in Biddeford.

By JOE LAWLOR Staff Writer

PORTLAND – A state-run dental clinic that served 3,000 mentally ill and intellectually disabled patients closed Friday, but its services are expected to continue in southern Maine and expand to central Maine, said an official in the state Department of Health and Human Services.

click image to enlarge

In this January 2013 file photo, Dental hygienist Torey Richard conducts a teeth cleaning for patient Rick Hagan at Clinical Services in Portland. The state-run dental clinic that served 3,000 mentally ill and intellectually disabled patients closed Friday, but its services are expected to continue at Community Dental in Biddeford.

John Ewing / Staff Photographer

Clinical Services, at 63 Preble St., closed Friday, and its services will be contracted out to the nonprofit Community Dental in Biddeford, said Jim Martin, associate director of aging and disability services with the DHHS.

Martin said he hopes the transition will be smooth but he doesn't know how long it will take to resume Clinical Services' specialized care. Some patients have to be sedated to receive dental care.

"The department is doing everything we can to ensure a continuity of services," Martin said. "We're hoping it will be a quick transition."

Martin said he doesn't know why the service was contracted out to a nonprofit. Other DHHS officials were not available for comment Friday afternoon, when the Portland Press Herald learned about the closing.

Dental services for disabled residents were the focus of debate during this year's state budget negotiations. Gov. Paul LePage eliminated funding for the services in his budget proposal, issued in January, but $1.6 million was restored by legislators in the budget they passed late Thursday.

Martin said that as part of the discussion, the dental services were expanded to central Maine, so there will be clinics in Bangor and Augusta starting later this year.

Beryl Cole, who was a dental hygienist with Clinical Services, said there has been confusion about what would happen to the dental services for the disabled, with the clinic's closure.

"It's been very, very, very strange," Cole said.

 

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

jlawlor@pressherald.com

Twitter: @joelawlorph

 

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