GOSHEN — Costs of dental care for children through the Elkhart County Health Department will rise this year.

Health Officer Lydia Mertz proposed a fee increase for pediatric dental services during the county commissioners meeting Monday.

Mertz told the commissioners the fees haven’t been updated in 14 years. And with a full-time dentist now on staff, she wants to bring the rates up to make the clinic more self-sustainable.

“They are way behind what they should be,” Mertz said of the fees.

About 37 services will have higher rates, including oral examinations, fluoride treatments and X-rays, according to the proposed update.

The increases will affect patients covered by private insurance and those who are uninsured, according to Mertz. Rates won’t change for those with Medicaid, who make up the majority of clients at the dental clinic, 1400 Hudson St., in Elkhart.

But some clients have fallen “through the cracks,” as Mertz phrased it — they don’t qualify for Medicaid but they can’t afford or aren’t provided health insurance. In such cases, they are charged on a sliding fee scale, Mertz said.

A few of the larger increases for uninsured clients include oral exams rising from $3 to $7.50 for those on clients on the lowest end of the scale, Mertz said as an example after the meeting. The cost for sealants, as another example, will go up from $4 to $7.75 at the bottom of the scale.

The commissioners approved the proposed fee increases. They’ll take effect July 1.

Mertz noted the Health Department plans to seek another set of increases next year. She indicated the rate changes are being done in phases, saying she wants clients to get used to paying more for the pediatric dental service.

Those with questions about the new rates can call the clinic at 574-522-0104.

SERVICE APPROPRIATIONS

The commissioners took action on several other issues Monday. They included assisting two local agencies with funds, though with some opposition.

Tina Fraley, chief financial officer of the Elkhart County Council on Aging, requested financial aid to help the organization cover costs of transportation and other services for clients who don’t qualify for Medicaid.

The commissioners voted 2–1 to appropriate $90,000 from the county landfill’s Special Projects Fund to the Council on Aging.

Commissioner Suzanne Weirick opposed the move.

“I still just have an issue with government funding social services. In general, government does way too many things,” Weirick said.

Following that vote, all three commissioners voted to approve an appropriation of $100,000 from the landfill fund to the Center for Community Justice.

Irwin Larrier, the agency’s executive director, sought the assistance to help cover costs of programs related to victim advocacy and juvenile rehabilitation, according to his presentation.

The proposals are now scheduled to go before the Elkhart County Council for approval during its meeting on July 13.

LITTER ORDINANCE

The commissioners also updated the county’s new litter ordinance by shortening it slightly.

They voted to take out a line that restricted vehicles from trailing “mud, dirt, sticky substances, trash” onto roads.

The ordinance, which the commissioners passed last week, prohibits littering from vehicles and requires trash-hauling vehicles to be properly secured. First-time violators could face a fine of up to $250.

The county has also hired a police officer to concentrate on litter enforcement along with regular patrol duties.

The ordinance is set to take effect July 1. Monday’s change will undergo a process before it goes into effect.

Aimee Ambrose can be reached at aimee.ambrose@goshennews.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 316.

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