State Secretary of Health Dr. Calvin Johnson visited the Mifflin-Juniata Dental Clinic on Monday afternoon to personally bestow the honor.
“Thank you very much for stopping what you do to take me through (the facility) and show us what you do here,” Johnson said.
“What you do here is absolutely critical,” he said.
Dr. Gail Heyn, the facility’s sole dentist, led the secretary and his assistants through the clinic, highlighting the facility’s interior.
“We want to keep patients coming in and showing up; that’s very important,” Heyn explained to Johnson.
“We are one of the few free standing, community supported, free clinics (in the state),” said Donna Kinslow, executive director of the clinic.
Many clinics similar to the one located at 100 Fifth St. in Lewistown receive federally funded grants, but the MJ Dental Clinic does not, Kinslow explained. Most of the funds which made the clinic possible came from the United Way of Mifflin Juniata, Community Development Block Grants, local volunteers and donors, Kinslow said.
Johnson toured the facility for about 30 minutes, taking time to speak with Heyn regarding issues and concerns the clinic faces. After the tour, Johnson and his entourage joined Lewistown Hospital President and CEO Kay Hamilton, hospital and clinic staff, Heyn and Kinslow for a brief but detailed discussion.
“We know very clearly that one: oral health care is probably one of the most neglected (forms) of healthcare from the patient perspective and the system perspective. And two: we know how critical oral healthcare is to the overall health of the individual,” Johnson said.
“The fact that the system doesn’t give oral health its due is a challenge that we are facing every day, and believe me, we are recognizing that,” he said.
Johnson applauded the clinic not only for its rarity, but also for the community that helps make it a reality.
“This (clinic) was a response to a community-wide health assessment that found a huge need for low-income families,” Kinslow said.
“We are so proud to be recognized for what the community came together and did — they really put their mind to this, and we are thankful,” she continued.
“If you weren't here, Dr. Heyn, how many kids really would have the chance to be exposed to a dentist and see that’s a real opportunity,” Johnson said.
“Without you, they would be without care,” he said.
Since 1996, the American Public Health Association has organized National Public Health Week and developed campaigns to educate the public, policy-makers, and public health professionals about issues important to improving the public’s health, according to its Web site, http://www.apha.org.'>www.apha.org.
By making climate change the week’s theme for 2008, the public health community is changing how society addresses this unprecedented challenge, the Web site states.
Sentinel photo by BUFFIE BOYER
Pennsylvania State Secretary of Health Dr. Calvin Johnson, left, and Deputy Secretary of Health Michael Huff, listen to Dr. Gail Heyn, dentist at the Mifflin-Juniata Dental Clinic, during a tour of the facility Monday. Dr. Johnson addressed important issues as he honored Public Health Week.