The Rural Communities Resource Center (RCRC) has been a fixture in Yuma for as long as most people in northeastern Colorado can remember.
It all started nearly 30 years ago when five pregnant women from rural Colorado were planning home births and decided it would be beneficial to meet once a week to exercise, eat and educate themselves on natural births – breaking the isolation that these women often felt from living in a rural community.
All volunteers, these women expanded their focus to create programs and services aimed at filling the gaps in services that were missing for rural families in their area. These early programs dealt with children and parenting, including groups for prenatal and postpartum women, domestic violence survivors and teen parents.
As time passed, the need for health and dental care for the county’s children started to become apparent. “Most people don’t realize that oral disease is the number one reason children miss school,” explains Patricia Brewster - Willeke, co-founder and co-director of Rural Communities Resource Center. “It is extremely difficult for many families living in Yuma and Washington counties to access needed dental care for their children as they must travel anywhere from 180 to 240 miles round trip to find a dentist who accepts Medicaid.”
In 2002, this all changed when a new foundation - Caring for Colorado - visited Akron to conduct a “listening tour” around its focus on oral health. A partnership with RCRC to fund dental screenings for children from birth through age 18 was born. Since 2002, the Caring for Colorado Foundation has given RCRC six grants totaling $403,500 to support oral disease prevention efforts for kids in the region.
Since 2002, a dental hygienist from Sterling has traveled to Yuma and Washington counties to conduct screenings and provide fluoride treatment. Yearly, school-based dental screenings were implemented in 2007 in all schools located in Yuma and Washington counties. The University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine’s SmileMaker mobile dental clinic visits the counties for a number of weeks each year to provide restorative dental care. A dentist from Ft. Collins visits the area twice a year. If children on Medicaid need to visit his Ft. Collins dental office for further treatment and do not have transportation, County Express- which Caring for Colorado funds - will provide the transportation.
According to Brewster-Willeke, since the screenings first began eleven years ago the number of children with bad teeth and significant dental problems has been significantly reduced. In 2012, approximately 700 children in Yuma and Washington counties received dental screenings.
“The partnership with Caring for Colorado has changed the face of oral health care in Northeastern Colorado,” says Brewster-Willeke.
Today, the Rural Communities Resource Centers has locations in Yuma and Akron, providing a variety of services to approximately 2,000 people per year.