Nov. 27—WORTHINGTON — Going to the dentist can be stressful, but for some people, finding a dentist who accepts their insurance or who will help someone uninsured can be even more difficult.
The Nobles County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to accept funding from Blue Plus to hire a dental innovations coordinator to connect people in need with dental services, provide dental education and bring additional dental resources to the community.
"I think in Nobles County our need for increased access for dental care for persons on public programs is well, well documented," said Stacie Golombiecki, community services director for Nobles County. "It's been part of our community health assessment for as long as I've been in this position... roughly 10 years, but I think it goes way back before that."
The new position will be funded by Blue Plus for up to three years at $100,000 per year, though the dental innovations coordinator will be a Nobles County employee. Specifically, the position will be part of Nobles County's public health unit, which will allow them to easily work side-by-side with county employees who focus on children and family health, Golombiecki said.
The position would begin in Nobles County, working with Cottonwood and Jackson counties initially and then expanding out to all the counties served by Southwest Health and Human Services and Des Moines Valley & Human Services, Golombiecki said.
Blue Plus is the HMO affiliate of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and offers public health plans including MinnesotaCare. However, the dental innovations coordinator will also assist people who aren't using Blue Plus health care, as the idea is to expand dental access for everyone.
"We know that (dental access) has been a problem for decades across the whole of Minnesota," said Gary Sprynczynatyk, county/community liaison principal with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.
Sprynczynatyk offered commissioners details about how Blue Plus-funded dental innovations coordinators have worked in other regions of Minnesota, starting with Polk County in northwest Minnesota and then moving around the state.
"I see this position as being the coordinator of all of this, and not necessarily doing all the actual (dental) service," Golombiecki said.
Commissioner Donald Linssen said he was concerned about what would happen when Blue Plus stopped funding the position, as the county would either have to fund the position itself or lay off the coordinator. Golombiecki said she hoped to hire someone flexible enough that they could potentially move to another health education or wellness coordinator position within the public health unit.
"I feel very strongly that this is a position that we do need," said Michelle Ebbers, Nobles County Community Health Services administrator/public health supervisor, who attended the meeting remotely. "This is really an important issue. ... we've got many children who are growing up with very serious dental concerns at this time."
Ebbers emphasized that dental issues aren't just cosmetic, but can cause a variety of illnesses and health problems too.
In other news Tuesday, the county board:
* Heard from County Administrator Bruce Heitkamp that the county is continuing to monitor the status of the OSHA requirement that employers of more than 100 people require workers be vaccinated for COVID-19 or tested weekly and masked.
* Agreed to meet for a "Coffee with the Commissioners" gathering at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 10 at the Center for Active Living in Worthington.
* Learned that the Nobles County Fair Association board is looking for members.
* Approved a needs analysis for the storage of impounded vehicles and vehicles that need to be stored pending legal proceedings, after previously discussing an indoor storage facility or a fenced-in outdoor storage area for the vehicles.
* Received the annual report on adult protection and child support from Nobles County Community Services.
* Approved a quote from DebtBook for $13,000 for services relating to implementing new requirements for lease recognition, measurement and related disclosures.
* Approved a changed job description and reclassification of an eligibility worker in human services, which raises the pay level on the county step system from 8 to 9 for 12 workers. The change will need to be approved by the union.
* Updated the language in the county's policy for emergency closure of departments.
* Approved the compensation plan for non-union employees with a 2.75% cost of living increase for each level and step.
* Approved Gene Metz as voting delegate and Justin Ahlers as alternate for the annual Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust meeting during the Association of Minnesota Counties conference.
* Approved an agreement with NAC Mechanical & Electrical Services for $26,848 to monitor and service the HVAC systems in county buildings in 2022.