Home Health Affordable Dental Care gets massive boost from state Equity Recovery Grant

Affordable Dental Care gets massive boost from state Equity Recovery Grant

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“The simplest language in the world is a smile.” 

This was the message of Madison Deputy Mayor Dr. Linda Vakunta and the message that Affordable Dental Care (ADC) spread to the public last week at their press conference celebrating a $759,000 Equity Recovery Grant given by the Wisconsin Department of Administration. Vakunta, Deputy Mayor of Madison, was one of a small list of speakers who gave their impressions on the important work of ADC. 

“At the Department of Health Services, we really believe that absolutely every Wisconsinite has the right to comprehensive or oral health care across their lifespan,” said Karen Timberlake, Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. “We know that care needs to be affordable, it needs to be accessible and it needs to be provided in a culturally and linguistically appropriate way with humility.”

President and Chairman of Affordable Dental Care Jason Krause, and Dane County Sheriff Kalvin Barret also spoke on themes of community, hope, and providing life-changing services for people in times of need. This same sentiment was shared by Melissa Agard, District 16 Senator in Madison, as she spoke on the necessity for more people-focused work in multiple spaces. 

“I know that strong communities are built on people who are compassionate, who believe in what we can do when we roll up our sleeves, and we see each other for the humanity and the humility that we carry within our lives,” said Agard. “And, frankly, we need more of this in the state of Wisconsin and our Capitol Building.”

The impact of ADC on the community was made apparent through the testimony of a patient who credits the work of ADC, specifically the executive director, Areli Estrada, as providing them a service and experience rarely expected when thinking of oral healthcare. Estrada’s work so far with ADC has been defined by her dedication to helping the community as their location on the north side of Madison stands in a location in need of its services.

“We are in a health desert,” Estrada said. “The demand for our services is really high. But we don’t have the professionals, there’s a shortage of clinical professionals. I’ve been struggling to get a hygienist. So there’s even an issue with the workforce. Everything is very competitive.”

Having the space and staff to provide service has been the most pressing issue for Affordable Dental Care. Although the $759,000 grant has been crucial for hiring staff in efforts to expand ADC’s outreach and visibility, the funds are not usable for purchasing their current building or other potential spaces in Madison. 

“We see anybody that doesn’t have dental insurance, nobody gets turned away, we want to see them,” Estrada said. “We are outgrowing our space. Right now, it takes nearly four months for a patient to see our hygienist. These are patients that have severe gum disease. We want to eliminate gingivitis, and we really want to take care of their oral health. Eventually, these patients, we want them to get to a point where they’re going to the dentist for their routine appointments.”

However, ADC’s current location at 2110 Fordem Ave still serves as a space of comfort and assurance for the community, and Estrada makes it known that this is exactly the atmosphere they look to create. 

“I just encourage people to come into our clinic. I love giving tours,” she said. “I think that once people learn more about our mission and work, what we’re doing, they become really engaged in our work, and they start supporting our efforts. So I just encourage people to learn more about what we’re doing and stop by our clinic.”

The community in turn has responded not only in their turnout to the Thursday event, but also in the sentiments they leave with the ADC family. 

“Our patients come back and they tell us, ‘Nobody has ever treated me with so much dignity and respect, and your clinic is doing that for me here,’” Estrada said. “And we really ensure that they’re safe and that they feel comfortable. It’s such a beautiful place and environment and all it takes is for you to come and see it. And I think it’s difficult not to fall in love with our mission once you’re there and experience it for yourself.”

This response is no coincidence considering the efforts put forth by the team at ADC to provide accessible and welcoming care to their patients. In tandem, Estrada looks to highlight the importance of oral healthcare beyond just the physical health of the mouth itself. 

“We are giving people their smiles back and through that, their self-esteem improves, their confidence improves. They’re able to secure employment. Giving people their smile back every day transforms their lives.”

ADC serves a special place for those who are uninsured or underinsured to receive oral healthcare at a more affordable cost, but it is also special in the other barriers it breaks down – specifically the barriers of language when attempting to seek quality healthcare.

“We’re engaging the Spanish-speaking population,” Estrada said. “They don’t know about our services, so we’re going to be doing a dental education workshop in Spanish with the Latino Academy of Workforce Development with our ESL students. 

“Then we’re also trying to get a career pathway certificate. We conducted a dental education workshop in Spanish with Planned Parenthood recently, we did it with NewBridge. Then we’re trying to get on the Spanish radio station.”

Estrada makes it clear that the team at ADC is constantly listening and committed to their role representing and serving diverse and underrepresented communities in Madison. 

“We are with the people, we are not for the people, we are with the people and we’re working together. We are working on improving their systemic health and empowering them, and it’s just really great,” she said. “To me, it’s like, we live this. This is who we are, our clinic. So we don’t have to put it in writing just to cover our bases. Right, but all it takes is for you to be there to show up and experience it for yourself.”

Even though ADC can always use more support from community members who may have access to funds or resources for expanding and continuing their mission, Estrada and the ADC team are not at all disappointed in the trajectory they are headed. 

“I just want to highlight thanking Governor Tony Ever’s administration for the Equity Recovery Grant and their support,” Estrada said. “It’s the first time we have ever received a grant from the Department of Administration. We’re not backtracking to anything, we are moving forward, and we are growing our space. So we are in high demand to expand and own our building.”

Visit Affordable Dental Care’s website to learn more about the organization or visit their current location at 2110 Fordem Ave to check out their work firsthand.