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New York program reaches 55,000 kids

PRASAD Children's Dental Health 13 years strong and counting

Hurleyville, N.Y.—Just 90 miles from Midtown Manhattan, this rural area in the Catskill Mountains was once a vibrant part of the "Borscht Belt," known for the resorts, summer camps and hotels that thrived there from the 1920s to the 1970s.

But today, many have closed and the area has found itself to have a largely rural population with limited access to dental care.

For the past 13 years, the PRASAD Children's Dental Health (a nonprofit organization whose name stands for Philanthropic Relief, Altruistic Service and Development) has collaborated with state, county and local agencies and schools to provide dental care and education to children in need in New York's Sullivan and Ulster counties.

"I feel honored to be part of this program," said Susan Purcell, RDH, who presents the in-school education programs. "I started as a volunteer hygienist and a mom of children in the local schools. I've been a hygienist for nearly 30 years and I love being part of this. The students are very open and receptive to the educational messages and our program keeps evolving to meet the needs of our community."

Since 1996, PRASAD has served more than 55,000 children and provided 160,000 procedures at 17 different community sites in Sullivan and Ulster counties. Its mobile dental van is certified by the New York State Department of Health as an Article 28 clinic and school-based health center.

It travels to area schools, helping parents and caregivers who are unable to travel and/or take time off from work for their child's dental visit. It reaches children through collaborations with nine school districts, social services, Sullivan County Public Health, Head Start, community colleges, Sullivan County Youth Bureau, Community Action Agency to Help the Economy and New York State officials and legislators.

The program also offers the Smiles for Teens education program to help older children continue with good oral health habits and a Pregnant Women and Infants program serving participants of the Sullivan County Women, Infants and Children program who don't have access to dental care.

The New York State Dental Foundation recently presented PRASAD Children's Dental Health Program with a Give Kids A Smile Award—which provided $5,000 to help enhance its program.

Dr. Cecilia Escarra, program administrator of PRASAD Children's Dental Health Program since 2002, said, "As a dentist and administrator, my seven years with PRASAD Children's Dental Health Program have given me the most rewarding experiences of my career. I continue to see, firsthand, the positive outcomes our program produces for the children and the communities it serves."

"The whole idea of the program is to develop a culture of good oral health care practices, starting with preschool-age children," said Carolyn Hansen, who heads up development for the project. "By using the mobile dental clinic at school-based sites, PRASAD's Children's Dental Health Program successfully mitigates the financial and unique transportation barriers faced by many children in need who live in this rural setting, and provides comprehensive, quality dental services through education, prevention, detection and treatment."

PRASAD CDHP is part of The Prasad Project, an international nonprofit organization of the SYDA Foundation.

For more information about PRASAD CDHP, visit the Web site: www.prasadcdhp.org or call 1-845-434-0376.