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Dental Connections has been scheduling patients in a pilot program for the past several months and is now open to the public with three distinct programs to provide for the needs of those seeking dental care.
The Resource and Referral service taps into the Health District’s large database of dental professionals assisting men and women in the search for a local dentist that meets their needs. This unique connective care program now available online or over the phone, allows adults to search for a provider based on a range of criteria – from types of procedures and payment options to provider gender and non-English language proficiency – and find descriptions, location, and contact information for all providers.
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The Dental Care Access program creates connections to care for individuals with low income and no dental insurance. Due to the overwhelming need for lost-cost dental services in Larimer County, clients register for the Dental Care Access program through an online lottery system. After being selected and attending a screening appointment, eligible clients are matched with a local dentist for care and are charged a sliding-scale fee based on their ability to pay.
The General Anesthesia Program arranges dental care for people who require anesthesia to receive treatment. Often these are clients with disabilities who have been without dental care for long periods of time due to their need for anesthesia and as a result require more complicated and lengthy procedures. Dental Connections works to arrange for local dentists to provide care to these individuals at a local surgery center.
There is an overwhelming need for dental care in Larimer County, and Dental Connections’ Dental Care Access and General Anesthesia programs rely on the generosity and donated services of local dentists. Nearly 12,000 adults in Larimer County need dental care but cannot afford it. Although many receive donated care from local dentists or are helped by other local programs, demand for care far outstrips supply, leaving an estimated 7,000 without access to even basic dental care – often for years. 45% of low-income adults do not have a regular source of dental care, and 42% of all adults have put off care during the past two years because they couldn’t afford it. Statistics like these are what prompted the formation of the Dental Connections steering committee. “That bothers me as a dentist and as a healthcare professional. The reason I got into this field was because I want to care for people,” says Steering Committee Chair and Fort Collins dentist Joel Kaines. “We sat down with dentists as well as those who could not afford care, and we listened to what they needed,” recalls Carol Plock, Executive Director of the Health District. “Both were heavy experiences, but we started to grow hope that an expansion in affordable care was possible. So we rolled up our sleeves to work out the details.”
Now, several months after launch, Dental Connections has a solid base of dental providers and is continually working to add more in order to increase capacity. Each provider in the program works with Dental Connections to set their own guidelines regarding how many clients they’d like to see and how much time they have available to give. Dental Connections handles the logistics of screening, scheduling, and billing, allowing dentists to focus on clients. The key, says Dental Connections Coordinator Sheryl Harrell, is that “Everyone does a little bit. We’re not asking dentists to solve the entire problem themselves.”
“Our mission is to eliminate barriers to healthcare including dental health maintenance, which is why we are excited to participate in this collaborative program” says Mary Vivo, Executive Director of the Women’s Resource Center. The Women’s Resource Center is dedicated to increasing access to health and dental care for low-income, un/underinsured women through outreach, education, patient navigation, and connection to low-cost services. With programs focused on breast, cervical, and ovarian cancers, dental health, and diabetes and obesity prevention and education, the community-based non-profit has been contributing to the well-being of women in Larimer County since 1975, and has folded their existing dental program into the new Dental Connections partnership.
The Health District of Northern Larimer County has been meeting local healthcare needs in Northern Larimer County since 1960. Today, they provide prescription assistance, mental health, dental, preventive and health planning services to the Northern Colorado community. In addition to their involvement in Dental Connections, the Health District continues to operate the Family Dental Clinic.
Dental Connections at a Glance
202 Bristlecone Drive
Fort Collins, CO 80524