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Wisconsin clinic continues the care

July 06, 2017

By Kelly Soderlund

Waukesha, Wisc. — Tahany Azzab had been spending every other day at the Waukesha County Community Dental Clinic in mid-May.

Her four children hadn’t been to the dentist in a long time, so the clinic staff spread out their appointments since their treatment was so extensive. Ms. Azzab and her husband, who both hail from Egypt, can’t afford to pay for their family’s dental care out of pocket so they turned to the Waukesha County Community Dental Clinic for help.

The Azzab family is one of many immigrant families that call the Waukesha County Community Dental Clinic their dental home. The clinic is the only full-time safety net dental facility in Waukesha County, located about 20 miles west of Milwaukee, that serves children from low-income families, uninsured and underinsured kids and adults. It was established in 2007 by the Waukesha County Dental Coalition, a group of more than 20 local stakeholders who wanted to address a gap in access to affordable dental care for low-income families in Waukesha County.

Since then, the clinic has served more than 13,000 patients and provided more than $13 million in dental care, according to Renee Ramirez, executive director.

Photo of Fatima Azzab and her mother, Tahany Azzab
Dental sanctuary: Fatima Azzab, left, and her mother, Tahany Azzab visited the Waukesha County Community Dental Clinic May 18. Ms. Azzab takes her four children to the dental clinic because they can’t afford to go elsewhere.

The Waukesha County Community Dental Clinic was one of seven facilities across the country that received an ADA Foundation Give Kids A Smile Continuity of Care grant in 2016, which offered financial assistance to Give Kids A Smile programs providing continuity of dental care to the children served after the initial event. The Foundation awarded nearly $56,000 in 2016 and the application period for 2017 opened June 30 for programs interested in applying for the next round of GKAS Continuity of Care grants.

On May 18, several ADA Foundation representatives traveled to Waukesha to conduct a site visit at the clinic.

“The site visitors were most impressed by the great work performed by the multi-disciplinary team in Waukesha,” said Dr. William Calnon, interim executive director and president of the ADA Foundation board. “The patient care witnessed demonstrates the positive impact ADA Foundation grants can have on continuity of care.”

The Waukesha clinic used its grant money to provide follow-up care for the 80 children who attended its two GKAS events Feb. 3 and 10, Ms. Ramirez said. She’s also planning a third GKAS event this summer to spread the word about the clinic.

“It truly does take a village to take care of the kids we see here,” Ms. Ramirez said.

Photo of Ms. Ramirez
Ms. Ramirez

Ms. Ramirez’s priority is to alert Waukesha County residents to the existence of the clinic and that they can seek dental care for themselves and their children for no to little cost. One tool to help with this initiative is the oral health education Kristal De La Paz, the clinic’s dental health coordinator, provides at elementary schools.

“There are still families that don’t know about our program,” Ms. Ramirez said. “Even though I’m out there talking to people, there are still families that don’t know about us.” Dr. Deanne Blazek has been volunteering at the Waukesha County Community Dental Clinic since 2008 and was one of the advisory board members prior to its inception. She was in private practice at the time the clinic opened but felt called to help the underserved children in the area.

“I was helped as a child from my uncle, who was a dentist in Waukesha,” said Dr. Blazek, who grew up two hours away in Antigo, Wisconsin. “He helped our family so much. We wouldn’t have been able to afford to visit a dentist otherwise. I didn’t realize the enormity of the gift until I become a dentist and started to treat children. My uncle was so kind and gentle with us and my volunteering is payback for that.”

Dr. Blazek is among the 25 volunteer dentists, hygienists and dental assistants who donate their time and services to the clinic. The 22-employee staff includes six part-time dentists; one full-time hygienist; four part-time hygienists; four part-time dental assistants; a full-time dental health coordinator; and four part-time patient care coordinators. Eight staff members are bilingual and if they do not speak the language of the patient, they’ll use Delta Dental’s translation phone line to help interpret, Ms. Ramirez said.

Photo of Dr. Stacy Michels treating a patient
Care: Dr. Stacy Michels, a paid staff member at the clinic, treats a patient May 18. She is one of 22 staff members.
The clinic also launched two new programs in 2016 to help inform residents about its services. Healthy Smiles for Moms and Babies is a program focused on improving healthy birth outcomes for low-income pregnant women by providing oral health preventive services. Through this program, the medical clinic located in the same building below the Waukesha County Community Dental Clinic will often refer pregnant women upstairs to the dental clinic to begin early oral health intervention.

Also, the Special Smiles Program focuses on addressing the unique oral health needs of adults with special needs, such as developmental, cognitive and emotional disabilities. The dental clinic serves as a resource for these patients when service providers can be difficult to find.

The Continuity of Care grant supports the Give Kids A Smile initiative by providing grants of up to $50,000 in total grant funding to U.S. nonprofit organizations, specifically to help them provide continuity of dental care to GKAS event participants after the initial event.

To apply for a 2017 Continuity of Care grant from the ADA Foundation, visit grantinterface.com/adafoundation/common/logon.aspx. To qualify, organizations must be a U.S.-based 501 (c) (3) nonprofit; their community services must target children from underserved families who did not have their treatment needs completed during the initial Give Kids A Smile event; and GKAS programs must sign up to participate in GKAS 2018 through the ADA Foundation’s GKAS enrollment system beginning Oct. 1 at ADAFoundation.org/GKAS.