On October 15th Jefferson Healthcare will host a community open house to reveal plans for the first Rural Health Dental Clinic in Washington State. Attendees will have the first glimpse of the new clinic from design team, Coates Design Architects between 1:00pm -3:00pm. The team will offer virtual tours to the community as well as give details about design plans and dental services offered before the clinic is slated to open in Spring of 2019. In addition, the newly hired dental clinic manager, Susan Gile will be on hand to answer community questions.
The clinic will be co-located in the Olympic Medical Office Building which currently houses primary care and behavioral health, thus offering patients dental services integrated with other aspects of health care. Dental care for the under and un-insured is one of the most critical health needs in east Jefferson County. Jefferson Healthcare, poised to be the first Rural Health Clinic (RHC) in WA State to offer dental services, received $1,000,000 in state capital funding to start the pilot program which will serve an estimated 3,000 children and adults annually in the six-chair office.
This innovative solution of integrating dental services into primary care clinics operating as RHCs will leverage the recent changes to the WA State Medicaid program which now allow RHCs to bill an encounter rate rather than a fee-for-service rate for dental services.
“The changes to the WA State Medicaid program will allow for us to provide dental care to the most vulnerable in our community who often are forced to delay care until they go to the emergency department. By integration the dental services with primary care and behavioral health, we can provide whole person care,” says Jenn Wharton, Chief Ambulatory and Medical Group Officer.
Jefferson County has one of the lowest utilization of dental care services for Medicaid eligible clients in WA State, having ranked 39 out of 39 counties for five years. In 2017, Jefferson County moved up to third last. Since the expansion of Medicaid there are almost 9,000 Jefferson County residents, 2,400 children, who are eligible for Apple Health; of these only 21% receive dental care. Currently, Jefferson County has no dentists who see adults with Medicaid.
In addition, the economic benefits to the community associated with the project will be great. The avoidance of expensive and unnecessary emergency department visits, better oral health care for patients with chronic diseases yields better outcomes and lower cost to the patient. A reduction in absenteeism at school and work due to dental pain can be expected and this will add several skill jobs to the community.
This project has been made possible with support from the Taxpayers of Washington State, Washington State Hospital Association, Washington State Legislators, Washington State Department of Health, the Arcora Foundation and the Dental Trade Alliance Foundation. Jefferson Healthcare acknowledges the Washington State District 24 Legislative Delegation, Representatives Tharinger and Chapman, and Senator Van De Wege, for their vision in identifying the need for dental services in Jefferson County and their support in moving this work forward.