Innovative New Dental Clinic Opens in Olympia Following $255,000 WSDA Foundation Grant

Innovative New Dental Clinic Opens in Olympia Following $255,000 WSDA Foundation Grant

The Neighborcare Health Dental Clinic at Providence St. Peter Hospital will provide underserved families and individuals access to oral health care services.
Low-income individuals and families in the Olympia area can soon see a dentist in a state-of-the-art facility that rivals any private dental office. 

On Sept. 24, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to mark the opening of the new Neighborcare Health Dental Clinic at Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia. The clinic is largely the result of a team effort from various public and private resources, including a $255,000 contribution from the Washington State Dental Association Foundation. 

The facility is located in space provided by Providence Health & Services in their St. Peter Family Medicine Center. It’s operated by Neighborcare Health, a non-profit with a 50-year history of delivering health care to underserved populations. On top of the WSDA Foundation’s grant, other critical financial support came from the Washington State Capital Budget, Providence St. Peter Foundation, and other stakeholders.

The dental residency program will provide a seven-chair clinic offering primary and comprehensive care to underserved communities and vulnerable adult populations. The clinic will grow to include five dentists, three dental residents and two attending dentists who will provide dental care as well as on-call services for the Providence St. Peter Hospital Emergency Center and inpatient unit 24/7, 365 days per year.

Dr. Amy Winston, a former member of the WSDA Board of Directors, has been instrumental in leading the effort to create clinics like the new one in Olympia. Two clinics in Spokane are already open and recruiting for residents to start in July of next year. The programs are modeled after a similar program at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, where Winston practices.

“The Olympia clinic is a powerful example of what can be done to better meet the needs of underserved populations,” said Winston. “I am proud to have collaborated with so many individuals and organizations who see the value in this kind of innovative community partnership.”

Over the coming years, the clinic will grow as new dental residents join the program. Resident recruitment efforts are set to begin in the fall of 2020, with three residents starting in July 2021. During their time in the program, residents will gain important experience treating vulnerable patients and may even be inspired to continue down the path of public health dentistry in their careers.

“Dental residency programs like this new one in Olympia are an important strategy for improving access to care,” said Bracken Killpack, executive director for the WSDA. 

“Too many emergency room visits are made by patients suffering from dental issues. Expanding people’s access to routine care will help them avoid these problems and steer clear of the most expensive health care delivery option around, reducing the financial burden on our public health system,” he said. “And, for patients who cannot avoid an emergency room visit for dental pain, the new clinic gives emergency room personnel the ability to bring in on-call dentists to see a patient then and there, which also allows patients with non-dental emergencies to be seen more quickly.” 

“Residencies ensure that these patients receive the level of care we all should expect, from a fully trained and licensed professional dentist,” he said. “We hope this will become a model that the Legislature will continue to invest in and replicate in other communities across our state.” 

In the meantime, the Neighborcare Health Dental Clinic at Providence St. Peter Hospital provides another example of how WSDA and its members are providing innovative approaches to increase access to oral health care for vulnerable populations across the state.