Todd Trust feted for dental van donation

In celebration of a $100,000 challenge grant that helped St. Joseph Health sustain and expand mobile dental care in Sonoma Valley and other areas in Sonoma County, representatives of St. Joseph Health, Wednesday, hosted a gathering at Burbank Housing’s Springs Village apartments to thank representatives of the Hazel and Roland Todd Trust for helping to fund St. Joseph’s new, upgraded mobile dental clinic.

“Thanks to the Todd Trust and the Community Foundation Sonoma County, we were able to leverage this $100,000 seed grant to raise more than $450,000 for a new dental van,” said Tony Ghisla, chairman of the Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital Foundation board, which is part of St. Joseph Health and which led the fundraising effort.

In addition to the Todd Trust’s $100,000 challenge grant, administered by the Community Foundation Sonoma County, other donors contributed a collective $370,982 to give St. Joseph Health the funds to replace a 10-year-old mobile dental clinic which, for the previous decade, had served low-income dental patients in Sonoma Valley, Petaluma, Windsor and other local communities. The donation is in keeping with the Todds’ commitment to support health and human services for the sick, needy and elderly of Sonoma County and Sonoma Valley.

In 2013, St. Joseph’s new high-tech, kid-friendly mobile dental clinic began making its weekly rounds through Sonoma Valley and other communities, outfitted with the latest oral health care technology and creature comforts for pediatric and adult patients.

Through this mobile dental outreach, St. Joseph Health sees 6,765 patient visits annually, traveling to sites throughout Sonoma County to help expand access to much-needed oral health care. Going to meet patients in need where they live is a key component of dental care services that St. Joseph has provided for 23 years – based out of its original, stationary dental clinic in southwest Santa Rosa. Approximately 12,800 dental patients, ranging in age from infancy to 16 years old, are treated by St. Joseph Health every year.

When the new mobile dental clinic first arrived in Sonoma County in May 2013, Elizabeth Brown, president and CEO of the Community Foundation Sonoma County, said, “We are honored to steward this legacy gift of Hazel and Roland Todd, who cared deeply about the well-being of the residents in their community.”

The mobile clinic is a response to the No. 1 unmet health need among Sonoma County’s children – namely, the demand for treating dental decay. Forty-six percent of preschool children in the county are living with urgent or emerging dental problems, compared to 33 percent in the state of California. Between 5 percent and 10 percent of Sonoma County children have early childhood caries, tooth decay that often requires general anesthesia for treatment. Poor dental health is a precursor to serious disease in children and adults.

Upon the clinic’s completion, Harriet Derwingson, Community Foundation chairwoman, said St. Joseph Health received the $100,000 grant because of its 23-year track record of serving oral health needs in the county, including the Boyes Hot Springs area.

“If critical services such as health and dental care can be made more easily accessible to residents in this area, the health impacts will be significant,” Derwingson said.

The new 40-foot-long mobile unit has three treatment chairs, one more than the older unit. This enables St. Joseph Health’s team to treat more young patients. Each chair is equipped with a television monitor and headphones so children can be entertained with cartoons and other age-appropriate diversions while they undergo treatment. The new mobile clinic also is equipped with a built-in unit for sterilizing dental instruments, an option that wasn’t available on the original model.

The older St. Joseph Health mobile dental clinic continues to enjoy an active second career. St. Joseph Health donated the vehicle in January 2013 to a Placerville-based nonprofit group called Tooth Travelers, which provides preventative and restorative dental care throughout California, concentrating on populations with limited access to services, including homeless veterans.