Mobile Medical and Dental Clinic for Sonoma County | community
On August 26, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at John Reed Elementary School in Rohnert Park. The mobile medical and dental clinic is owned and operated by Petaluma Health Center (PHC). According to Chief Administrative Officer, Pedro Toledo, “it was a multi-year process” to make the mobile clinic a reality. Toledo was joined at the dedication ceremony by Congressman Mike Thompson, Rohnert Park Mayor Jackie Elward, Vice Mayor Samantha Rodriquez, Superintendent Mayra Perez, Director Anna Maria Young and PHC staff.
Toledo thanked the many people responsible for making the mobile clinic a reality, particularly Ramona English, the senior dental director. He said she was the driving force behind this effort. The mobile clinic is equipped with two fully equipped dental stations and a medical examination station. It was funded by some emergency response funding sources, but primarily by a series of grants. Some of the possible routine medical uses could include providing vaccinations, performing wellness checks, or performing sports screening. First of all, however, the focus is on dental care.
Toledo explained that they all worked together “to ensure that all members of our community have access to dental care,” and since some can’t come to us, “we had to go to you,” he said, which was a way Breaking down the barriers and extending healthcare to our most vulnerable populations. Although schedules are yet to be determined, the vision calls for the mobile clinic to visit school campuses with the highest free lunch programs at least twice a year. The mobile clinic is not limited to John Reed Elementary School or other schools in the Cotati Rohnert Park Unified School District, but will work with Petaluma Schools and other local communities in need of these services.
Perez stressed the importance of having a mobile clinic visit schools. Referring to John Reed’s diverse student population, of which 33 percent speak English as a second language and 81 percent are considered economically disadvantaged, she explained that “families feel comfortable in their school, it’s a safe place” for them. In a letter prepared in English for parents, she said, “Every day children and young adults in our community wake up with a toothache.” She continued, “Dental problems are the number one reason students miss school.” Perez added: “If children are healthy, they will learn.”
English wrote, “Dentists at Petaluma Health Center will provide students with dental exams, cleanings, sealings and other necessary treatments during school hours.”
That way, they don’t have to miss extra school time and their parents don’t have to take time off work to take them to the dentist. John Reed, and soon other schools, have partnered with Petaluma Health Center to offer this care through the on-campus mobile clinic.
Guided tours of the Mobile Clinic were given to those present. Thompson said more than once during his remarks, “This is an impressive mobile van.” He also said, “Providing equity in healthcare is a critical concept.” He saluted the people in the van who were doing the actual healthcare work, calling them true heroes. He then presented Toledo with a special Congressional Certificate recognizing the important work of Petaluma Health Care.
Petaluma Health Center has opened seven more health facilities since Toledo took the lead in 2014. It has grown into one of the largest nonprofit organizations in Sonoma County, employing nearly 500 people across its nine clinics and providing over 220,000 care visits annually to approximately 42,000 people a year. This mobile medical and dental clinic is an ongoing effort to ensure the entire community can access the care they need.
The final details of which campus the mobile clinic will visit and when have not yet been finalized. If this is the case, the Heads of School will inform parents and guardians. The vision is for the van to be on a campus for a full week to ensure maximum availability for that school community. Informed consent forms must be signed, billable insurance plans such as Medi-Cal can be used, and resources are available to help families enroll if they are not already enrolled in these programs. Dental care reports are made available to their parents and guardians for every child they see.
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