Grant will allow S’Klallam tribe to expand dental care

LITTLE BOSTON — A $100,000 health grant from the Arcora Foundation will provide seven dental operatory chairs inside a new integrated Health Services building for the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe.

“We haven’t always had the best access to dental care,” said Jolene Sullivan, director of Health Services for the tribe. “Patients used to receive care in a single-wide trailer. Sometimes you’d be in the middle of an appointment and some of the equipment would shut off.”

Sullivan said she received dental care from the trailer as a child, and since then the operation has grown to live in a permanent structure.

The current facility, however, cannot sufficiently support those eligible for care, including all enrolled tribal members in Kitsap County with or without insurance and non-tribal members with Medicaid.

The new health facility — built in part with $2 million from the state’s capital budget — and the addition of one part-time dentist and dental health aid therapist, will enable oral health patient capacity to double, Sullivan said.

“Though we have many who regularly visit the medical clinic,” Sullivan said, “less receive dental care.”

Only 30 percent of those on Medicaid on the Olympic Peninsula use their dental benefits, said Diane Oakes, president and CEO of Arcora, adding that “Natives tend to have higher rates of oral disease.”

 “Those with poor oral health have a harder time finding jobs and kids will have a harder time learning,” she said.

The dental services provided will include preventive care such as routine hygiene, restorative care including fillings, sealants, oral cancer screenings, endodontics and periodontics.

Arcora is the nonprofit foundation of Delta Dental, which strives to increase access to oral healthcare to low-income areas.

The grant will also increase preventative education, which is an important element for tribal members, Sullivan said.

After having limited access to oral care and traumatic experiences, tribal members hold on to anxiety, Sullivan said.  They “were afraid to come back.”

“Now we only see those with extreme dental needs because they let it go so long.”

The dental health aid therapist will be breaking that fear barrier by going out into the community to visit elders in their home and “work up to coming into the clinic,” Sullivan said.

The program hopes to train native tribal members in the dental health aid therapist role to increase the comfort level of patients.

The 22,500-square-foot, two-story medical facility design by Blue Architecture of Bremerton is budgeted at $8.1 million, and construction is set to begin this fall.

The design is intended to provide a casual community atmosphere with a social space in the main lobby featuring a cafe and seating area.The ground floor will host primary and dental care with behavioral health, chemical dependency, group therapy, and community outreach program spaces on the second floor.

The second level will also offer a kitchen and conference room for internal and community use.

“It’s gonna be a fully integrated care facility,” S’Klallam tribal member Kim Freewolf said.

“Now we can make sure the whole person is taken care of better.”

By Isabella Breda

Arcora Foundation to give $450,500 in grants for expanded dental health opportunities

Arcora Foundation, the Foundation of Delta Dental Washington, has announced they will award $450,500 in grant money across four health organizations in Washington to help create and grow dental clinics and expand access to care. This will enable 23,000 more dental visits for low-income individuals per year, according to a press release announcing the grants.

The four health organizations receiving this grant money include: HealthPoint Medical Clinic in SeaTac, the International Community Health Services (ICHS) Foundation, Klickitat Valley Public Hospital District #1, and the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe.

“Dental care is essential for health equity because oral health is health … Oral disease is also connected to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other serious health issues. Expanding access to dental care is essential so that everyone has an opportunity to lead a full and healthy life,” said Arcora Foundation President and CEO Diane Oakes in a prepared statement.

HealthPoint Medical Clinic in SeaTac is a community-based organization of non-profit health centers that aim to give high quality care. HealthPoint currently has 17 locations that provide a wide range of services. They will receive $75,000 of the grant money to create a dental center that would treat 8,400 dental patient visits per year.

International Community Health Services (ICHS) Foundation is an organization that aims to  provide culturally and linguistically appropriate health services. They provide primary medical, dental, vision, and behavioral health services. They will receive  $150,000 to build upon its Shoreline Dental Clinic by adding six more dental chairs that will serve 7,400 more dental patients per year.

Klickitat Valley Public Hospital District #1 is a 17-bed critical access hospital that will receive $125,500 to create a dental clinic in Goldendale that will have three dental chairs. The additional chairs will service almost 5,000 dental visits for Medicaid and low-income patients per year. According to the press release, currently the closest dental care for adults is 35 miles away in Oregon.

According to a press release from the Klickitat Valley Public Hospital, the dental clinic will be located on the second floor of the primary care clinic. Right now, they have only been able to give basic oral health services; now, through the grant money,  the medical providers will be trained on giving oral health screenings and how to apply fluoride varnish.

“We already have a waiting list of more than 200 people who need to get dental care,” said Klickitat Valley Public Hospital’s CEO, Leslie Hiebert.

The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe will receive $100,000 to establish a new dental clinic to serve 2,800 patient visits per year.

“Expanding our dental services will help reduce oral disease among tribal members, and having all health services in one location will make it more likely that oral health issues will be spotted early and treated before they become more severe,” said Jolene Sullivan, Health Services Director of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe.

According to the Arcora Foundation press release, access to dental care in the state is lower in rural communities and communities of color. These grants attempt to increase these communities’ access in order to reduce health disparities.

By Laura Lundberg