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Abused women may get dental help by October

The network of dentists would be able to provide free or at-cost care for women whose teeth have been damaged. State funding is possible, but further away.

By RYAN DAVIS

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 30, 2000


NEW PORT RICHEY -- Though they have not received funding, representatives from Pasco County's domestic violence programs and the dental community hope to have a network of free or inexpensive dental care for domestic violence victims in place by October.

The group met Tuesday at state Rep. Mike Fasano's office to devise a temporary plan until it could possibly receive state funding in July, next fiscal year.

"We've got nine months between now and then during which a lot of services need to be provided," said Gregory Giordano, a spokesman for Fasano, who is a Republican from New Port Richey.

The program would be the first of its kind in Florida and its supporters are not aware of another such program in the country. The beginings of a program already are in place, and one victim had her battered teeth repaired this summer, supporters said.

Broken and battered teeth can destroy self-esteem and keep victims from getting jobs, said said Penny Morrill of Sunrise, an east Pasco domestic violence shelter.

Dr. Donald Cadle of New Port Richey met with the group Tuesday and pledged to seek volunteers from the West Pasco Dental Association, an approximately 60-dentist group that will meet Sept. 26. Cadle is the former president of the group and the president-elect of the state dental association.

Until the domestic violence program gets funding, its leaders want to establish a rotation of dentists who would be willing to provide free or at-cost service to domestic violence victims suffering from mouth injuries.

With funds, the group hopes to buy a stripped-down recreational vehicle to create a mobile unit or develop another method for overcoming the transportation barrier that plagues many of its potential clients.

In the meantime, Fasano will look for volunteers to provide rides.

"If we have a transportation system in place," Giordano said, "it really doesn't matter where the victim is, as long as we have a dentist willing to provide the service."

The group will meet again Oct. 10, when it hopes to put a temporary rotation of dentists and drivers in place, Cadle said.

Eventually the group wants to provide care for victims with neglected teeth. For now, it will handle just emergency cases, Cadle said.

Severe damage to the teeth and mouth is uncommon, Morrill said, because most abusers hit their victims in places where the marks will not show. Morrill said Sunrise sees about three cases a year.

"When we do get them, though, then it's a real problem," Morrill said.

The program has been spearheaded by Pat Holihan, a certified dental technician who owns Paradent Dental Lab in New Port Richey. Aside from Holihan, the planning group consists of representatives from Fasano's office; Pasco County Sheriff's Office; Sunrise; the Salvation Army Domestic Violence Program, a west Pasco shelter; and Gulf Coast Community Care, which runs a homeless shelter for women.

- Ryan Davis covers higher education and social services in Pasco. He can be reached at 800-333-7505 ext. 3452 or by e-mail at rdavis@sptimes.com.

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