A new high-tech, kid-friendly mobile dental clinic soon will be rolling through Sonoma County, bringing vital checkups and critical treatments to thousands of low-income and underserved families. Through a communitywide fund-raising effort led by the Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital Foundation, St. Joseph Health has replaced its 10-year-old mobile dental clinic with a better equipped, custom-manufactured vehicle outfitted with the latest oral health care technology and creature comforts for pediatric and adult patients.
Donors raised $470,982 to fund the new mobile clinic, including a $100,000 challenge grant awarded from the Roland and Hazel Todd Trust of Community Foundation Sonoma County. In keeping with the Todd's commitment to support health and human services for the sick, needy and elderly of Sonoma County and Sonoma Valley, the Community Foundation awarded St. Joseph the grant to continue providing dental services to low-income residents in the Boyes Hot Springs area. Through mobile dental outreach, St. Joseph also serves other areas of Sonoma Valley, as well as Windsor, Petaluma and other local communities.
Key to fund-raising success was a plan on the part of Al Maggini's 200 "best" friends to raise funds for the clinic to recognize his 97th birthday. The County of Sonoma also made a grant of $100,000. Al Maggini, founder of Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital Foundation, is a legendary fund-raising volunteer. Maggini says, "Children need a chance at a healthy life. Without health you don't have much. When Sister Martha Ann showed me that first van, I saw kids with toothaches and no shoes. We had to do something. If you are fortunate, you have to give back. I do this in memory of my wife, Helen. She gave her whole heart to others. It was a good way to live."
Before this new mobile unit arrived, St. Joseph's mobile unit provided 6,765 patient visits annually, traveling to sites throughout the county to help expand access to care. Going to meet patients in need where they live is a key component of oral health care services St. Joseph has provided for 23 years – based out of its permanent dental clinic in southwest Santa Rosa. Approximately 12,800 patients, ranging in age from infancy to 16 years old, are seen every year.
"We are honored to steward this legacy gift of Hazel and Roland Todd, who cared deeply about the well-being of the residents in their community," said Elizabeth Brown, President and CEO of Community Foundation Sonoma County.
St. Joseph Health will formally introduce the community to the new mobile clinic today, Wednesday, May 15, outside Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital during a 5-6 p.m. open house and public unveiling.
The mobile clinic is a response to the No. 1 unmet health need among Sonoma County's children – namely, the demand for treating dental decay. Forty-six percent of preschool children in the county are living with urgent or emerging dental problems, compared to 33 percent in the state of California. Between 5 percent and 10 percent of Sonoma County children have early childhood caries, tooth decay that often requires general anesthesia for treatment. Poor dental health is a precursor to serious disease in children and adults.
Harriet Derwingson, chair of the Todd Trust Committee and chair elect of Community Foundation Sonoma County, said St. Joseph Health received the $100,000 grant because of its 23-year track record of serving oral health needs in the county, including the Boyes Hot Springs area.
"If critical services such as health and dental care can be made more easily accessible to residents in this area, the health impacts will be significant," Derwingson said.
The new 40-foot-long mobile unit has three treatment chairs, one more than the older unit. This enables St. Joseph Health's team to treat more young patients. Each chair is equipped with a television monitor and headphones so children can be entertained with cartoons and other age-appropriate diversions while they undergo treatment. The new mobile clinic also is equipped with a built-in unit for sterilizing dental instruments, an option that wasn't available on the original model.
The older St. Joseph Health mobile dental clinic continues to enjoy an active second career. St. Joseph Health donated the vehicle in January 2013 to a Placerville-based nonprofit group called Tooth Travelers, which provides preventative and restorative dental care throughout California, concentrating on populations with limited access to services, including homeless veterans.
Members of the media and public are invited to tour the new mobile clinic between 5-6 p.m. May 15, 2013 outside Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. For other media needs, please contact St. Joseph Health spokeswoman Katy Hillenmeyer at 707-227-6828.