A ribbon cutting ceremony was held at John Reed Elementary School in Rohnert Park on August 26. The Mobile Medical and Dental Clinic is owned and operated by Petaluma Health Center (PHC). According to Chief Administrative Officer, Pedro Toledo, “this has been a multi-year process” to make the mobile clinic a reality. Toledo was joined by Congressman Mike Thompson, Rohnert Park Mayor Jackie Elward, Vice Mayor Samantha Rodriquez, Superintendent Mayra Perez, Principal AnnaMaria Young, and staff of PHC for the dedication ceremony.
Toledo thanked the many folks responsible for making a mobile clinic happen, especially Ramona English, the Chief Dental Director. He said she was the driving force behind this effort. The mobile clinic is configured with two fully equipped dental stations and one medical examination station. It was funded through some emergency response funding sources but primarily through a series of grants. Some of the possible routine medical uses could include providing vaccinations, doing wellness checks, or sports physicals. However initially the focus is on providing dental care.
Toledo explained that they all worked together “to ensure all members of our community have access to dental care” and since some can’t come to us, “we needed to go to you,” he said it was a way of lowering the barriers and expanding health care to our most needy populations. Although the schedules are not yet set, the vision is that the mobile clinic will visit those school campuses with the highest free lunch programs at least twice a year. Not limited to John Reed Elementary or other schools in the Cotati Rohnert Park Unified School District, the mobile clinic will work with Petaluma Schools and other local communities in need of these services.
Perez stressed the value of having a mobile clinic visit the schools. Using John Reed’s diverse student population with 33 percent speaking English as a Second Language and 81 percent being considered economically disadvantaged, she explained that “families feel comfortable in their school, it’s a safe place” for them. In a letter prepared for parents by English, she said “Everyday children and young adults in our community wake up with dental pain.” Further she wrote “Dental problems are the most common reason why students miss school.” Perez added that “when kids are healthy – they’re going to learn.”
English wrote “Petaluma Health Center’s dentists will be providing dental check-ups, cleanings, sealants and other necessary treatment to students while at school.”
This way they don’t have to miss additional school time and their parents don’t have to take time off from work to take them to a dentist. John Reed, and soon other schools, have partnered with the Petaluma Health Center to provide this care via the mobile clinic at the campus.
Tours were given of the Mobile Clinic for those in attendance. Thompson said “this is an impressive mobile van” more than once during his remarks. He also said, “providing health care justice is a critical concept.” He gave a shout out to the people in the van doing the actual health care work calling them true heroes. He then presented Toledo a special Congressional Certificate recognizing the critical work Petaluma Health Care does.
Petaluma Health Center has opened seven additional health care sites since Toledo assumed the leadership in 2014. It has become one of the largest non-profit organizations in Sonoma County, employing almost 500 employees at their nine clinics, and providing over 220,000 care visits annually to around 42,000 people per year. This Mobile Medical and Dental Clinic is a continuing effort to ensure the entire community can access needed care.
The final details of which campus the mobile clinic will visit, and when, are not yet finalized. When they are, the principals will get the word out to parents and guardians. The vision is that the van would be on a campus for an entire week to ensure maximum availability for that school community. Consent forms will have to be signed, billable insurance such as Medi-Cal can be used, and resources will be available to help families enroll if they’re not already enrolled in those programs. Dental care reports will be provided for every child they see to their parents and guardians.