Dr. Dana Fujita and assistant Jessica Williams work on Israel Castillo’s teeth during a recent visit to the Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition’s clinic in Steamboat Springs on Thursday afternoon.

Photo by John F. Russell

Dr. Dana Fujita and assistant Jessica Williams work on Israel Castillo’s teeth during a recent visit to the Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition’s clinic in Steamboat Springs on Thursday afternoon.

Dental coalition expands services to Steamboat

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Get qualified for treatment

To get a Client Assistance Program card, which can be used at multiple health service providers that have agreed upon criteria, Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition Executive Director Janet Pearcey said potential clients need to provide proof of income such as pay stubs or have someone attest to providing assistance if he or she is without income.

The coalition can check for eligibility for some assistance programs, but Pearcey suggested clients visit the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association or an area hospital, which can qualify individuals for a greater range of programs, including Medicaid.

Once a client has the card, he or she can visit any coalition clinic without reproducing proof of income.

For more information, call the coalition’s Craig office at 970-824-8000.

If you go

■ Craig office:

485 Yampa Ave., 970-824-8000

■ Steamboat Springs clinic:

116 Eighth St., 970-761-2056

Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday

■ Oak Creek clinic:

In the South Routt Medical Center, 300 S. Main St., Oak Creek

Open two Mondays per month

Call the Craig office for a schedule and appointments

Steamboat Springs always has been on the radar of the Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition. But until this past year, the group’s ability to see patients in Routt County was limited to one or two visits to Steamboat per month, working out of another dental provider’s office.

The Craig-based coalition is the only clinic in the area offering reduced fees based on income for dental services. For the past several years, the coalition has seen a steady increase in patients who are uninsured or on Medicaid, according to Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition Executive Director Janet Pearcey.

“Families that had never had to seek assistance are now covered under Medicaid,” Pearcey said.

“All the data all these years have shown the need is there,” she said about the coalition’s goal to expand in Steamboat. “When the economy got bad, we needed to do it even more. We were busting out our seams anyways.”

Thanks to grant funding received late last year, the coalition has been able to open up a clinic in Steamboat, seeing patients three days per week, and a satellite clinic in Oak Creek, which is open twice per month.

Dr. Dana Fujita, who has been with the coalition since 2005, travels between Steamboat and the clinic in Oak Creek.

Fujita agreed with Pearcey that the coalition sensed a definite need.

“Many have told me they haven’t been in this situation before,” she said about the increase in patients who have lost jobs or private insurance in the recent economic recession. “They used to go to a private office, but they can’t afford it now.”

Fujita said the clinics receive referrals from private practices whose patients can no longer afford treatment or have gone onto Medicaid.

The coalition handles most general dental services at the Steamboat and Oak Creek clinics — including crowns, bridges, dentures and partials — and hopes to grow the Steamboat clinic to four days per week and make visits to Oak Creek once per week.

Pearcey said it made sense to expand to Steamboat when considering the group’s clients. She said the coalition serves quite a few clients from Walden, for example, and transportation issues make it difficult for them to travel to Craig. The coalition serves clients in Moffat, Routt, Grand, Jackson and Rio Blanco counties. Overall, the coalition saw 1,453 individual clients in fiscal year 2010 and 1,697 clients in fiscal year 2011.

Its clinics are open to everyone and employ a sliding fee schedule for anyone whose income is less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level. The clinics accept Colorado’s Child Health Plan Plus, and the coalition is one of the few dental providers in the area that accepts Medicaid.

Fujita said it’s a common misconception that the clinics only see children and stressed that all ages are welcome.

The $95,200 the coalition received from Caring for Colorado and $52,000 from the Colorado Health Foundation helped it finance its expansion in Routt County. At about the same time, a Steamboat dentist retired and was selling his practice. The coalition was able to lease his old office at a discounted rate from the landowner, starting in March 2011 with weekly visits and expanding to three times per week by October 2011.

The clinic in Oak Creek is the result of a partnership between the coalition and the South Routt Medical Health Service District and benefited from almost $50,000 in grant funding from the Colorado Rural Health Care Grant Council, which was used to purchase dental equipment and an automatic electric defibrillator.

“Everyone has been really welcoming,” Fujita said about moving into the medical center building. “They’ve been very gracious.

The clinic in Oak Creek had been on the table for some time, Pearcey said. Renovations in the space for the clinic in the South Routt Medical Center were completed recently, and the coalition has only made two visits to Oak Creek so far.

“Demand is stepping up,” Pearcey said, adding that as both locations build momentum, waits for services should shorten.

The coalition also has started a partnership with First Impressions of Routt County for the Cavity Free at Three program sponsored by the University of Colorado Area Health Education Center, with First Impressions receiving grant funds from The Colorado Trust to promote the program.

“The initiative is geared toward training medical and dental providers in how to identify early childhood lesions, decay, performing risk assessment and training medical providers in fluoride varnish,” Pearcey said. “Research shows the more delayed we are in seeing infants and toddlers, especially in high risk groups, the more likely they are to have cavities.”

Pearcey said the program is a collective effort to get medical providers on the same page about preventing oral disease in young children and involves a program coordinator who provides education, presentations and training.

The coalition has multiple community partnerships and has been relying on them to help spread the word about its recent growth.

“We’ve been trying to reach out to the VNA and LIFT-UP, and it’s starting to pick up,” Fujita said, noting that they are working through the wait list from when the Steamboat clinic was open fewer days.

Pearcey encouraged people to call, get more information and become qualified. She said as both locations build, waits should shorten.

“It takes time for the word to get out,” she said.

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4254 or email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com

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