Presidio dentists hope to bring free screenings to school district

PRESIDIO — At last Wednesday’s school board meeting, Manuela Avila and Jeremy Velasquez of the Preventative Care Health Services (PCHS) dental clinic presented a plan to offer free screenings to Presidio ISD students. The plan does not cover extensive procedures, but would offer basic services like x-rays and cleanings on campus during the school day. 

Avila and Velasquez explained that their mission was to make dental care available to all Presidio kids without worrying about the cost or logistics of going to the clinic. In the long run, they hoped catching health issues before they spiraled into emergencies would also help kids get the most out of their education. “If they’re in pain, how can they focus in school?” Velasquez asked. 

They said that they were partly inspired by kids in remote Candelaria, who are bused a hundred miles round trip each day to attend Presidio schools. They felt that these kids deserved dental care without the considerable cost and time required to bring them into the clinic. 

In order to receive the free screenings, kids would have to be established “patients of record” at the clinic or have their parents fill out waivers. They anticipated that most families would be enthusiastic about the service, given the difficulty of having to schedule appointments around school hours.

The couple insisted that they would not be paid by the school district because their positions at the PCHS clinic are salaried. The clinic would not be costly to PCHS either, given that the majority of students within the district qualify for Medicaid.

To make their dreams reality, there were a few more hoops that they would have to jump through — mainly working out schedules, equipment and drawing up contracts between the clinic and the school district. If everything goes smoothly, they hope to get the program up and running in January. 

Board Vice President Marco Lujan expressed support for the project, remembering a similar service at Presidio ISD when he was in school. “Those were some of the only times I would see the dentist,” he said.