Local News

Dental Clinic for area's poor gets major backing

dental clinic Critically-needed from Washington Dental Service Foundation, the Boeing Company, Boeing Employees Good Neighbor Fund, the Joshua Green Foundation, the McEachern Foundation, and dozens of dental professionals have now brought a new 30-chair dental clinic for low-income Eastside children and adults at Lake Washington Technical College closer to becoming a reality.
   The capital campaign is the first in LWTC's history, and is co-chaired by Richard Crinzi, DDS, MS and Ronald Frost, DDS.
   These two dentists have rallied numerous fellow dentists, tackling the fund-raising project dental chair by dental chair, enlisting the support of dentistry study clubs and professional societies by speaking at meetings, sending letters, and sharing information with colleagues.
   The clinic and training facility for the college's new Dental Hygiene Program got its jump start from a $450,000 grant in early 1995 from Washington Dental Service (WDS) Foundation, who responded to concerns in the dental community that the work force shortage was impacting the nonprofit Washington Dental Service.
   "We became very committed to this," said Dr. Thomas G. Davidson, a member of the WDS Foundation board of trustees. "The clinic was the culmination of a three-year effort to solve a problem known throughout the dental community. It will ultimately benefit the oral health of hundreds of people statewide."
   The facility will be named the Washington Dental Service Foundation Dental Clinic and dedicated in the Spring of 1996.
   Gifts to the low-income dental clinic reached the $1.1 million mark in early December. With such a sizable boost from the private sector, College President Dr. Donald Fowler has announced the launch of the "community phase" of a capital campaign to raise the remaining $250,000 needed to fully equip the clinic and press it into maximum service.
   The clinic, when fully funded to include 30 chairs, will significantly reduce waiting periods for the Eastside's poor, who now face a crisis in dental care with only a handful of dental chairs to serve this growing population.
   The clinic will offer the full range of standard dental care services at roughly half the cost of most private practices, serving Department of Social and Health Service (DSHS) patients but also serving as a vital "safety net" for the many "working poor" who do not qualify for DSHS but have no dental insurance.
   Staffed by dental professionals, the clinic will also serve as a training site for dental hygiene students in Washington's first new Dental Hygiene Program to be initiated in 23 years. A work force shortage in dental hygiene of some 300 positions exists statewide.
   The innovative program is the first to collaborate with the University of Washington School of Dentistry, exchanging supervisory instructors and students to help integrate the training of hygienists, dental assistants and dental office managers with the training of dentists themselves.
   The Boeing Company announced its partnership in late November with a $65,000 pledge. "It's a natural," said Christine Jones, the Boeing Company's Manager of Corporate Contributions. "We are committed to the health of this region and the project fills a tremendous need. We just want to help get the word out that such a facility exists."
   The Boeing Employees Good Neighbors Fund (BEGNF) was among the first contributors to the effort. Its gift of $52,380 enabled LWTC to purchase about four dental operatories to serve thousands of patients over the coming years, many of whom are poor children of East King County--about 25 percent of this region's poor. It is estimated that one of five of these children are in serious need of dental treatment.
   Gifts have also been made by the Joshua Green Foundation, the D. V. and Ida McEachern Foundation, and dozens of dentists, several of whom have personally donated operatories with gifts of $10,500.
   Kitty Domres, Director of the LWTC Foundation and Director of Development, expects the remaining $250,000 to be given during the first half of 1996.
    "We've had great receptions from a number of regional corporations and foundations that care about health for this area's poor. And dentists and hygienists have been aggressive supporters. Many funding requests are pending, and we have a lot of confidence and hope that they too will see it as a community 'must,'" she said.