For the first time Thursday, May 23, 2019, the Denair Unified School District offered free medical and dental care for nearly 200 students thanks to a series of partnerships with regional providers.
The medical care – immunization shots, sports physicals, primary and basic health screening – involved more than 150 students. They were seen at a mobile health RV owned by Castle Family Health Centers in Atwater. It was staffed by Castle nurses and medical assistants along with medical residents from the UCSF Fresno training program.
The cost was picked up by Legacy Health Endowment, whose mission is to provide financial and technical support to improve the health of people living in Stanislaus and Merced counties. The nonprofit was created in 2014 as part of Tenet Healthcare’s acquisition of Emanuel Medical Center in Turlock.
The dental clinic was provided by Big Smiles, which brings dental services to schools in 19 states.
In all cases, parents filled out permission slips ahead of time allowing doctors, nurses and dental professionals to treat the students. School officials created a schedule to minimize wait times.
The timing of the clinics occurring on the same day – which also was the final day of school – was intentional, said Denair Superintendent Terry Metzger.
“We wanted to offer them both together,” she said. “This allows us to get our student athletes to get their sports physicals for summer practice and fall and winter sports. And our principals tell us that dental care is actually a bigger need for our families than medical care. It’s a gap for them.”
Jeffrey Lewis, the CEO of Legacy Health Endowment, said the goal of the medical clinic is to “keep kids healthy and help parents understand that they don’t have to pay for health care, that we can use charitable dollars to help families access free medical care.”
With that in mind, there already are plans for the medical team to return to Denair on July 31.
The dental team was comprised of licensed local dentists and dental hygienists. Services include an examination, cleaning, fluoride, X-rays and sealants.
Each child received an oral health report card to take home after the dental visit. Patient care coordinators will contact parents of students needing additional follow-up by mail or phone. One first-grader had such a positive experience that he told a staff member walking him back to class that he likes the dentist. “My teeth feel good,” he said. “I want to go back.”