It took five months longer than expected, but when the Minnesota State Legislature met in special session last week, it finally passed its enormous bonding bill – a collection of thousands of individual projects throughout the state – from roads to building improvements.
One of the items included in the bonding bill was the approval of $1.4 million in state funds for the construction of a dental clinic inside the new Wright County Government Center that will help serve those who can’t afford dental care. With most dentists not accepting patients unable to pay themselves because state vouchers were barely covering the costs of the work and they often took months to get reimbursed, the number of such clinics has been dwindling over the last decade.
The $1.4 million was more than was expected and the county will work with the non-profit organization Community Dental to get the clinic staffed and treating patients. Commissioner Darek Vetsch, who spoke a key legislative committee this spring about the importance of having such a clinic, said that, it took a long time and a lot of work from many different people to get this accomplished.
“We got a bonding bill passed from the state for $1.87 billion and $1.4 million of it will go to finish out our Dental Center,” Vetsch said. “I want to thank county staff, our surrounding cities and counties, my fellow board members, (the lobbying firm of) Flaherty & Hood and all the work everybody has done. This is going to be a great asset for the community. I look forward to moving ahead with Community Dental to get this completed.”
Mike Potter explained to the board that often times when those on medical assistance don’t have proper dental care, they often get infections that send them to emergency rooms and that cost is sent to the county. While there was opposition from some in the Legislature, Potter said that many saw the merit in the program because getting children proper dental care early in life can prevent a lot of problems later in life with lost or failing teeth.
“I know for a lot of legislators, this was a tough decision to make,” Potter said. “It was a little more than they were comfortable with, but, in the end, it will be the right call to get this thing moving forward. My fear was that they weren’t going to pass this and next year in a budget session, they would be bogged down for the first 30 days with the bonding bill. It could create chaos for a couple of years. Kudos to everyone who worked on this because this will actually save counties money in the long run.”
Commissioner Mark Daleiden, who initially suggested to the board using some empty space in the New Government Center for the clinic, reminded residents that Wright County has never asked the State Legislature for bonding money before to cover a county project and added that the clinic will be of benefit to many more residents than those of Wright County because it will be the only clinic in a 50 mile radius or more to Wright County and those counties that border it.
“This was the first bond Wright County has ever asked from the state,” Daleiden said. “This isn’t just going to benefit Wright County. It will help Sherburne, Stearns, Meeker and others. This is going to be a great thing for those on Medicare and Medicaid. This is a good thing for the residents of our county and surrounding counties.”