Everyone was smiling Dec. 5 when the Franklin County Health Department Dental Clinic opened its doors.

“This is a wonderful day,” said Carrabelle Mayor Curley Messer. “I’ve fought many a day for this building to stay open. A dental program is a wonderful thing for the people and kids of Franklin County.”

As a crowd of about 40 people assembled in front of the newly renovated clinic, the staff lined up behind a red ribbon for a photo opportunity. Dental Program Manager David Walker introduced Dr. Renee Parrish and her staff.

“A dream has come to a reality,” he said. “Our heart is children; we serve the poorest of the poor.”

Interim Franklin County Health Department Administrator Marsha Lindeman welcomed visitors to the grand opening of the clinic.  She praised the staff of the county health department for making the clinic a reality.

“They took all of the pieces and breathed life into it,” she said.

Lindeman was followed on the podium by Florida’s Department of Health Chief of Staff Kim Barnhill, a former director of the county health department, who expressed amazement at how rapidly the clinic had come together.

“I’m just the idea person,” she said. “We got this done in record time. It doesn’t matter how many balls we throw at David Walker, he keeps them all in the air.”

She called Kimberly Albritton, who found funding for the clinic, a “grant writer extrordinaire.”

The main funding for the facility comes from two grants. The Florida Low Income Pool, a government funding source established to support health care services to Medicaid, underinsured and uninsured populations, will provide $400,000 per year for two years.

The Blue Foundation, thephilanthropic affiliate of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, will provide $100,000 per year for three years. Walker said 115 applications were received for the funding in 2011 and the top 15 were funded. Franklin County’s dental clinic was in the top three.

“This shows what can happen with government entities working together,” said Commissioner Cheryl Sanders. “Even though we can’t have primary care here, we have dental care.”

Barnhill said Commissioner Pinki Jackel was pivotal in the creation of the clinic.

 “When the primary care clinic went away, I went to Tallahassee to see what we could get,” Jackel said after the ceremony. “Franklin County had no low-income dental care facility. Folks west of the river had to go to Gulf County and on the east side all the way to Taylor County. It wasn’t fair and transportation was a problem for some of those folks.”

After the ribbon cutting everyone took a tour of the new clinic and enjoyed a festive holiday buffet prepared by the clinic staff.

The new facility boasts two examination rooms. Five of the six employees of the clinic are county residents. The new dentist, Dr. Renee Parrish is a resident of Thomasville, Ga., and has been a frequent visitor to the county in the past.

Office hours are scheduled for Monday through Thursday 7:30 am to 6 p.m. The clinics will serve uninsured children from six months to 20 years of age, and Medicaid-eligible pregnant women and provide emergency care for adults whose income is at 200 percent of the poverty level or less.

For more information or an appointment call 697-4121.