Free dental clinic garners community support

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In April, the all-volunteer staff members of Battle Ground HealthCare were able to realize their dream of expanding medical services to provide extractions and restorative dental care.

Providing medical and limited dental care to those ages 18-65, Battle Ground HealthCare is attempting to support the working poor who find it difficult to afford health coverage, but do not meet federal guidelines for assistance in another way.

Ruthie Gohl, executive director for Battle Ground Health Care, touched briefly on the Affordable Care Act widely known as Obamacare. 

“A lot of people have gotten the Obamacare and area physicians’ offices have had so many people come on that they aren’t able to see new patients,” Gohl said.

She went on to explain that, while this situation may resolve at some later point, the Affordable Care Act has not been an immediate solution to the nations’ uninsured population and The Free Clinic of SW Washington, New Heights Clinic and Battle Ground HealthCare are a much-needed resource in the community.

According to Gohl, the first order of business with the volunteers at Battle Ground HealthCare’s dental clinics is to end pain. At the screening clinics, patients receive dental x-rays, a general health assessment of the mouth and a treatment plan is decided upon. A second appointment is scheduled to perform any tooth extraction(s) or restorative care such as fillings that is deemed necessary.

More involved restoration work like bridges and dentures is referred to a provider in the area that’s chosen to partner with Battle Ground HealthCare to provide free or low-cost services. Cleanings may be performed in tandem with other services depending on the doctor’s findings but that is determined on a case by case basis.

The immediate goal is to have a minimum of two screening clinics each month. Gohl explained that 8-10 patients can be assessed per clinic. Currently, they’re open about once each week for treatment clinics.

“If we had more dentists and more volunteers, we could be open every single day of the week,” Gohl said. “When we say clinic, we can be open a four-hour block of time. (We) could do morning, afternoon and evening.”

Between the medical side and dental side of Battle Ground HealthCare, there are 80 volunteers total. Another 15 for the dental clinic is Gohl wish. That includes reception, scheduling, and medical records in addition to dental assistants, dental hygienists and dentists. Gohl urges anyone who’s looking to serve as a volunteer that has computer experience and can talk on the phone to contact the clinic.

Several of the dental providers at Battle Ground HealthCare are retired dentists who are excited to be able to help patients in a field they love such as Drs. Glenn Holler, Gary Waldron, Joe Opray and Phil Pritchard, who also serves on the board of directors. Others are giving of their time while managing a patient load elsewhere like Steven Hokett, with Salmon Creek Oral Surgery & Periodontics, Bryan Harris in Camas and Jennifer Ehrlich, who practices in Vancouver.

Battle Ground HealthCare operates solely on donations with no government funding. Gohl ran down a list of local companies who’ve supported their efforts.

• The Vancouver Clinic provided all the clinic’s furniture and equipment when they first opened.

• Legacy Medical Group provides blood work and x-rays free of charge.

• Vancouver Radiology reads the x-rays.

• Kaiser Permanente has given their dental department grants for equipment and supplies.

• The dental hygiene program at Clark College recently remodeled and gave Battle Ground HealthCare their old equipment.

• Adventist Medical Center partners with them as well as several anonymous donors.

“Everything that has come to us has been free,’’ Gohl said. “I can’t say enough about this community. They’re just awesome.”

Battle Ground HealthCare is located at 11117 NE 189th St., No. 216, Battle Ground. To volunteer, for more information or to make an appointment, call (360) 687-8941 or go to www.battlegroundhealthcare.org.

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