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Transition of Oral Health Task Force to Sawtooth Mountain Clinic Ensures Sustainability

Oct 21, 2020 09:21AM ● By Editor

OHTF Chair Paul Nelson is proud to see Sawtooth Mountain Clinic CEO Kate Surbaugh formally accept the transfer of the Oral Health Task Force from North Shore Health Care Foundation Executive Director Valerie Marasco Eliasen. The OHTF ensures that anyone in Cook County and Grand Portage, age pre-natal to 26, has access to dental care regardless of insurance coverage or ability to pay. Submitted photo

From the North Shore Health Care Foundation - October 21, 2020

The Oral Health Task Force (OHTF), an incubator program of the North Shore Health Care Foundation (NSHCF), has found a permanent home with the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic. The groups began exploring the transition earlier this year to ensure the program’s long-term sustainability in the community. The transition is now officially complete.  

The unique locally-grown Oral Health Task Force provides oral health education, screenings, fluoride treatments, semi-annual “Free Days at the Dentist” and dental work for children ages prenatal to 26, and pregnant mothers without dental insurance, across the county and Grand Portage. The collaborative effort began as an idea and incubator program with the North Shore Health Care Foundation in 2011, when it was identified that many children were going without oral health care due to a lack of dental coverage. Since the program’s inception, and thanks to many grants secured by the OHTF to support the program’s generous sliding fee scale, nearly 900 individuals have received oral health care locally. The OHTF employs an Oral Health Educator/Hygienist and works with Grand Marais Family Dentistry and the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic for care provision.  

“We are grateful for the support of numerous grantors over the years, for the hard work of many to develop a successful program which we know is working, and to the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic for taking on the Oral Health Task Force to ensure it will continue,” said Paul Nelson, OHTF Chair and NSHCF Board Member. “Thanks to key partners the Oral Health Task Force has; we’ve seen an increase in program usage and a continual reduction in decay and cavities in children locally. For example, the percentage of students with cavities at Cook County ISD 166 has dropped from 26% in 2014 when we started doing screenings to just 9% in 2019. Grand Portage’s Oshki Ogimaag Charter School saw a 13% reduction from the first year of working with the Oral Health Task Force in 2018, compared to 2019.”

“The Sawtooth Mountain Clinic has long been a partner in the Oral Health Task Force and is pleased to now be able to bring this critical program under our umbrella of health services,” said Kate Surbaugh, CEO – Sawtooth Mountain Clinic.  “Having healthy teeth is an integral part of children's overall health and well-being. Early preventive care such as screenings and sealants can keep teeth healthy and reduce the need for expensive restorative care later.”

Although tooth decay is almost completely preventable, it is the most common childhood disease. Studies show links between ear and sinus infections, weakened immune systems, diabetes and other serious illnesses. Lack of dental care can affect children's speech, nutrition, growth and development. Over 51 million school hours are lost each year due to dental-related illness.

Despite the administrative and fiscal transfer to the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic, the collaborative nature of the OHTF will continue, meeting monthly, and includes representation from:

  • Grand Marais Family Dentistry
  • Local schools and school nurses
  • Cook County Public Health & Human Services,
  • The Grand Portage Health Service, 
  • A parent advocate, and 
  • The North Shore Health Care Foundation.

More information about the Oral Health Task Force and how to access service, is available by calling 218-387-2334.

Kate Surbaugh, CEO – Sawtooth Mountain Clinic, 218-387-2330 x159 [email protected]   
Paul Nelson, Chair – OHTF, 218-370-0656 or [email protected]
Valerie Marasco Eliasen, Executive Director – North Shore Health Care Foundation, 
     218-387-5700 or [email protected]

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