Program brings free dental care to children in underserved Contra Costa County communities
Walnut Creek, Calif. (March 17, 2014) – The Dental Collaborative of Contra Costa, which brings free dental care via the Contra Costa Ronald McDonald Care Mobile® to thousands of underserved children in western, central and eastern Contra Costa County communities, is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
The Contra Costa Ronald McDonald Care Mobile®, a dental office on wheels, provides preventive and restorative dental services for children and youth through age 19. It visits underserved communities in Contra Costa County – areas where pediatric dentistry is scarce, and transportation is a barrier to care. Most children who receive the dental treatment are uninsured or not eligible for other programs, and many have had no prior history of dental care. The Dental Collaborative of Contra Costa operates the mobile dental clinic four times a week (twice in each of the eastern and western areas of the county) at various locations with a focus on underserved neighborhoods in Richmond, San Pablo, Bay Point, Pittsburg, Antioch, and parts of Concord. Over its 10 years of service, the Care Mobile has received 11,041 patient visits, serving 5,086 children. The Collaborative has also provided 53,861 children in low-income schools with oral health education and 42,660 children have received an oral health assessment.
The Dental Collaborative of Contra Costa is a partnership between Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Bay Area (which provides the mobile clinic), Contra Costa Health Services (which provides screening and education in schools and other community settings), La Clinica de La Raza, Lifelong/Brookside Medical Care (both provide dental services, including medical staff, registration, and enrollment assistance), and John Muir Health's Community Health Alliance (which provide the driver and program coordination).
The need for access to dental care for children in the county is evident. Contra Costa County is home to more than 260,000 children under the age of 18, representing approximately one-quarter of the population countywide. Though similar to the statewide total for California, within some west and east county communities—including Bay Point, Richmond, and Oakley—there is a notably higher percentage of young people (31 percent). In 2012, it was assessed that 13 percent of Contra Costa County's children—nearly 33,000—were living in poverty, one of the social determinants that affects health, with a higher prevalence of oral diseases among low-income populations. Access to regular dental care plays a critical role in achieving and maintaining good oral health. Contra Costa County's triennial report on Community Health Indicators 2010 indicates that 25 percent of Contra Costa's school-age children had not seen a dentist within the past six months, and it is estimated that in Contra Costa County at least seven percent of children miss school days due to a dental problem.
"Oral health relates to overall health," said Chris Grazzini, RN MS, Program Manager, Community Health Alliance. "We know too there is a higher prevalence of oral diseases among low-income populations and other disadvantaged groups. Access to regular dental care plays a critical role in achieving and maintaining good oral health, which in turn is essential to a higher quality of life."
"The tooth decay and other dental problems we find among the children we treat can hamper eating, sleeping - even their ability to learn," said Dr. Vanessa Franks, a dentist who works on the Care Mobile. "Any pain or discomfort is distracting and may even cause them to miss school. For some they are also embarrassed by the condition of their gums and teeth, and they are inhibited to speak."
Children receive a dental screening through Contra Costa Health Services' Children's Oral Health Programdental program staff. Those with identified dental problems are referred to a provider (La Clinica de La Raza or Lifelong/Brookside Medical Care) for registration and an appointment on the Care Mobile. Dental treatment is provided at no charge. Funding for the clinic comes from various sources, collaborative members, Ronald McDonald House Charities, grant funds, and corporate sponsorships.
In 2004, Contra Costa County's Ronald McDonald Care Mobile was the second launched in the Bay Area, as a partnership of county organizations including John Muir Health, La Clinica de La Raza, Brookside Community Health Center, Contra Costa Health Services, and Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Bay Area. The vehicle's first outreach efforts included delivery of dental services to elementary school students in the Pittsburg Unified School District.
On March 5 the Dental Collaborative hosted a celebration of its 10th anniversary with recognition of donors, volunteers and other people integral to the program, at Cambridge Elementary School in Concord. There they were presented with a resolution from the office of State Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) and the office of Assemblymember Susan A. Bonilla (D-Concord). The event was attended by Dr. Wendell Brunner, the Director of Public Health for Contra Costa County. A testimonial delivered by a young patient and family included heartfelt words about the necessity of the mobile dental clinic to the community, and the effect its care has had on her health and life. The young girl, now in fifth grade, has used the mobile unit for 14 appointments, with the Care Mobile providing the only dental care she has ever received.
Upcoming visits of the Contra Costa Ronald McDonald Care Mobile® will be at:
- March 21: Cambridge Elementary School, 1135 Lacey Lane, Concord from 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
- March 24 & 25: Target, 4500 MacDonald Ave., Richmond from 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
- March 28: Pittsburg Health Center, 2311 Loveridge Road, Pittsburg, from 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Tax-deductible donations to the Dental Collaborative for the Contra Costa Ronald McDonald Care Mobile® program can be made payable to the John Muir Health Foundation.