URBANA – Lisa Bell, an Urbana dental hygienist who founded a groundbreaking dental access program for needy children, has accepted a state job in Madison, Wis.
Her program, Central Illinois Dental Education and Services, will continue under new leadership, according to Claudia Lennhoff, a board member with the organization.
Bell's last day of work locally was Thursday.
"She's been amazing," Lennhoff said. "This program wouldn't have been where it's at without her. She's been very visionary."
Bell has accepted a position as public health dental hygiene officer with the Wisconsin Department of Public Health, where she will be involved in policy development and access-to-care issues across the state.
"I'm thrilled and frankly humbled that they chose me to be the person they wanted to push this program and position to the next level," Bell said.
She added she's grateful to those who helped her locally.
"I'm a better person because of what I've been able to accomplish in Champaign County," she said.
To replace Bell, who founded the dental access program five years ago, the board of directors of Central Illinois Dental Education and Services has hired Nancy Greenwalt of Champaign to be the part-time executive director and Jill Myers, a dental hygienist from Mattoon with eight years of experience, to serve as the program coordinator. Myers starts working full-time on April 1.
A new office for the program is being established in Room 205 of the Lincoln Building, 44 E. Main St., in downtown Champaign.
The dental access program contracts with local dentists to provide dental services to needy county children living outside of Champaign-Urbana. The dentists are paid half their normal rate. The Champaign County Board provides much of the funding for the program through a $105,000 annual grant.
In 2005, the program provided 3,309 dental visits to county children, including 884 in dentist's offices and 2,425 visits where children were served in school clinics and other alternative sites by dentists and dental hygienists. Children received 7,764 preventative treatments that year, including cleanings, X-rays, exams and dental sealants.
The program received a $135,000 grant and was able to open a dental clinic in the Rantoul Head Start facility last April. The Rantoul Head Start clinic served 138 preschool-age Head Start children, 56 siblings and 55 parents, including several pregnant mothers, Greenwalt said.
The grant for the Head Start clinic came from the Illinois Children's Healthcare Foundation.
Needy children in Champaign-Urbana can receive dental services through the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, which operates its own program.
Lennhoff said that while losing Bell is a blow, she thinks the dental access program still has room for growth.
"By hiring an executive director along with a program coordinator, we're hoping to grow the programs and the organization," said Lennhoff. "Nancy will focus on organizational development, fund raising and long-term sustainability."
Greenwalt, a former Champaign County Board member, is a veteran employee of not-for-profit organizations, having worked as executive director of Champaign County Health Care Consumers from 1995 to 1998.
"We're going to start a grass-roots fundraising effort, which CIDES has done in the past," Greenwalt said. "And we're going to continue our efforts on fundraising. This program is a one-of-a-kind thing. There's nothing else like it in the state."
Greenwalt added that replacing Bell won't be an easy task.
"I think Lisa did a great job building a new program," she said. "But I think we can build upon it."
Bell ran for the Champaign County Board in District 9 in the March 21, 2006, Democratic primary. She wound up tying for second place with Barb Wysocki, but lost a coin flip and did not advance to the general election. Each candidate received 792 votes.