A remarkable partnership among a diverse group of local and statewide leaders in health care and education will bring two new programs and $11.3 million in new construction to Edison Collegeâ€™s Collier campus.
The project was made possible thanks to a gift of $5.65 million from the Naples Children and Education Foundation NCEF , which produces the hugely successful Naples Winter Wine Festival.
Plans call for the construction of two new buildings on the Collier campus. One will be a 10,000 square foot building that will house a new early childhood education program. The other will be a 20,000 square foot state-of-the-art pediatric dental facility that will be part of the University of Florida College of Dentistryâ€™s Statewide Network for Community Oral Health.
The pediatric dental program will occupy the first floor of the new dental building, while the college will have use of the second floor for much-needed classroom and high-tech laboratory space, allowing the college to expand.
The University of Florida UF dental program at Edison College will provide specialized dental treatment to Collier Countyâ€™s Medicaid-eligible children. Once the program reaches full capacity, it is expected to provide 15,000 patient visits each year. The cost of construction and equipment for both buildings is $11.3 million. Edison College and UF will apply for matching state grants for the remaining $5.65 million of the projects' costs.
The resulting programs are designed to aid the estimated 17,000 Collier County children who lack access to dental care and the nearly 45 percent of the countyâ€™s children who enter kindergarten at risk of failing.
According to NCEF Chairman Scott Lutgert, these two building projects represent an unprecedented collaborative effort.
â€œWe are extremely pleased that through collaboration with the University of Florida and Edison College we are able to double funding for the benefit of the community and put more than $11 million toward helping children in areas of their greatest need. It is a wonderful example of the sum being greater than its parts, and just one of the ways we hope to bring together diverse groups for the good of children in need,â€ Lutgert said.
â€œEdison College has a mission to change lives for the better, and this project accomplishes that on so many levels,â€ said Edison College District President Dr. Kenneth Walker. â€œWe have two state institutions of higher education working together to bring a unique program to southwest Florida, and there is tremendous synergy between the mission of the college and NCEF.â€
NCEF, whose vision is to make a profound and sustaining difference in the quality of life of children in Collier County, commissioned a needs assessment by the UF Lastinger Center for Learning in 2005. The findings identified an oral health crisis in Collier County children and recommended a community-wide oral health program to expand the availability of dental services. The study discovered an estimated 17,000 Collier County children are without adequate dental care. Of the more than 25,000 children eligible for dental care through Medicaid, less than 14 percent actually received any care.
â€œOral health is often overlooked as a major childhood health issue,â€ said UF College of Dentistry Dean Teresa A. Dolan. â€œYet tooth decay is the most common childhood disease, and children from economically disadvantaged families are twice as likely to suffer from it as their more affluent counterparts. Studies have clearly identified dental disease as a problem in Collier County children, and I think you have to give credit to the Naples Children and Education Foundation not only for being successful in raising money, but also in being able to identify how to use that money in a way that will be of greatest benefit to the community.â€
The dental clinic and teaching facility will offer advanced dental care for at-risk children, a multitude of specialty services, sedation, and hospital-based dentistry for children. The facility will also serve as the new home for the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, which provides critical medical and dental outreach services to Collier County children.
Collier Health Services, Inc., a private, not-for-profit health care provider that chiefly serves clients at poverty level or below, will operate the clinicâ€™s billing and collection activities, payroll, supply procurement, and refer clients to the clinic.
The Edison College District Board of Trustees approved a long-term land lease agreement with the University of Florida at the trustees meeting on Nov. 28.
Construction plans also call for a second new building to house a child development/early education center on the Collier campus, similar to ones already in place on Edisonâ€™s Lee and Charlotte campuses. The facility will train future childcare professionals as well as providing quality care for 108 children from birth through five years old who are on subsidized childcare waiting lists.
Construction on the new buildings will begin in the Fall of 2007 with completion projected for the Fall of 2008.