The competitive advantage of the Regional Partnerships program is that each Regional Council is geographically-based, allowing for the full utilization of local knowledge and expertise. According to the Telluride Foundation's 2006 Health Needs Assessment, oral health care and the lack of dental care providers for low income children was one of the top health concerns for residents in Montrose, Ouray and San Miguel Counties. With this data in hand, the San Juan Regional Council began exploring opportunities to make an impact. Ultimately, the Telluride Foundation, headed by former San Juan Regional Council Member, Paul Major, founded the San Juan Kids Cavity Prevention Program (SKIPPY) in partnership with the Montrose Community Dental Clinic and the Forsyth Institute in Boston as a local health initiative.
With a goal of improving the oral health status of low-income children through the delivery of evidence-based cavity prevention treatment at school-based clinics, the SKIPPY program caught the attention of the San Juan Regional Council. However, the program caught the Council’s attention for more than its mission. At the time, it was an innovative, scalable and research-based idea with the potential to serve all low-income children living in the region. With a focus on implementing systemic and sustainable change to children’s access to healthcare, the SKIPPY program seemed like a perfect fit for the San Juan Regional Council. With a $76,750 grant, the Council helped The Telluride Foundation implement the SKIPPY program.
Since its inception in 2007, the SKIPPY program has provided more than 2,500 cavity prevention treatments to nearly 1,000 children ages five through twelve. According to Lynn Borup, Executive Director of the Tri-County Health Network, "many people do not understand the importance of oral health... but 8 million academic hours are lost every year in Colorado alone, due to dental pain." In addition to providing direct dental hygiene and cleaning services to children, the SKIPPY program also provides a health insurance enrollment program. This program identifies children who are uninsured and coordinates services for eligible children and their families through Medicaid and CHP+.
The SKIPPY program is free and offered at twelve participating elementary schools in Ouray, Montrose, San Miguel and Delta Counties. Along with being praised by educators who have witnessed the success of the program firsthand, the SKIPPY program has received statewide recognition. It was recently honored for Innovation in Children’s Oral Health Care by the Colorado Association of School-Based Health Care.
Due to its high impact on kids’ health without the enormous administrative and capital costs associated with a traditional school-based health care clinic, the Council has continued to support the program with three additional grants totaling $75,000 since 2007. Skippy is now administered as a program of the Tri-County Health Network, a supporting 501(c)3 nonprofit under the Telluride Foundation. The Network is comprised of a group of health care providers and facilities in southwest Colorado within the counties of Montrose, Ouray and San Miguel, and includes: Montrose Memorial Hospital, the Basin Clinic, the Olathe Clinic, Uncompahgre Medical Center, Telluride Medical Center, Midwestern Colorado Mental Health Center, and the Telluride Foundation.