In just a few short months, the recently reopened Alexander Valley Healthcare Dental Department has made a difference for some 650 patients.
AVH was forced to shut the dental office in 2009 when the State of California stopped reimbursing Rural Health Clinics for dental care under Medi-Cal.
Last November, AVH was awarded status as a Federally Qualified Health Center and one of the first things CEO Deborah Howell implemented was renewed dental care for Medi-Cal patients and the uninsured.
Dental service was restored in February on a one-day-a-week basis under the direction of Chief Dental Officer Kevin Garvin, DDS. Dr. Garvin maintains his private practice in Cloverdale Monday through Thursday while overseeing the direction of AVH services with recently-hired Dr. Joo-Ann Lao, DDS, and Office Dental Manager, Cindi Lands.
“Services initially were offered one day a week,” Howell said. “But the demand was so great that we began a search for an experienced dentist to join the staff.”
Dr. Lao began part time in June and now sees patients Monday through Thursday with Dr. Garvin on duty Fridays.
Dr. Lao trained in the Philippines and practiced for eight years in Taiwan before taking the Dental Boards in 2000 in the U.S. She was in practice for eight years in Napa before joining AVH.
In her spare time, Dr. Lao enjoys traveling in the U.S. and abroad.
Among the services AVH offers are dental exams, cleaning, x-ray, and fillings. While most of the patients have Medi-Cal or are low income, benefitting from a sliding scale payment program, the dental office is available to anyone.
Fees are similar to a dentist in private practice said Cindi Lands, the dental office manager. AVH accepts cash, check or credit card at time of service for those without Medi-Cal insurance, she added.
Some Cloverdale residents may remember Cindi as the daughter of long-time Cloverdale dentist Chuck Snider. She learned the business side of a dental office during 15 years with her dad. Dr. Snider served on the City Council and as Mayor in the 1970s and ‘80s. Snider was member of the Board of Directors at AVH for many years after he retired.
As office manager, Lands is busy preparing for the first FQHC audit, developing office procedures and working with Howell and Dr. Garvin on fee schedules.
“Opening the dental office, means AVH has added two hygienists, two Registered Dental Assistants, the two dentists, an office manager and a receptionist and that helps the Cloverdale economy,” CEO Howell said. “It also means dental service is once again affordable and local for low income residents in Cloverdale, Geyserville and Hopland,” she added.