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UW dental care program on budget chopping block

Jun 5, 2012 - The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- A program to bolster dental care in Wyoming and one satellite medical clinic could be in jeopardy under proposed budget cuts at the University of Wyoming.

UW's administration was recently asked to provide a plan for a possible 8 percent budget cut by Gov. Matt Mead.

The 8 percent reduction would cost the university about $15.7 million in general fund money from the state. Separate programs, including medical education, that are administered through UW also would face cuts.

"They're individual entities," UW spokesman Chad Baldwin said. "It's not like the university specifically picked out medical education; those are separate accounts."

In medical education, the total cut amounts to almost $1.3 million.

The program predominantly covers students in the medical fields and the program faculty, said Joe Steiner, dean of health sciences.

"We were certainly trying to maintain as much as we can, but you have to do some cutting somewhere," Steiner said.

The proposed plan includes closing an outreach clinic in Pine Bluffs.

Closing the clinic could leave some residents without access to community-based health care options, according to UW.

The priority had to be maintaining similar clinics in Cheyenne and Casper, Baldwin said.

"The Pine Bluffs clinic is useful for that community," he said. "But when you make cuts, something has to go."

The proposed plan includes eliminating both the WYDENT and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners programs, which pay the education costs of eligible students in return for them working a certain number of years in Wyoming after they graduate.

The WYDENT program is a joint dental school program with the University of Nebraska and Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.

"WYDENT is certainly a valuable program, but the program for educating physicians everyone would agree takes priority," Baldwin said.

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