When the West Orange Health Alliance awarded Shepherd’s Hope a $600,000 grant earlier this year, part of the goal was to bring emergent dental care under the organization’s umbrella.
COVID-19 slowed things down, but Shepherd’s Hope already has been able to help change lives by offering the dental acute-care services.
The organization has adopted the West Orange Dental Alliance pilot program into its operations. This allows the volunteer licensed providers and donated services to be covered under a sovereign-immunity contract with Shepherd’s Hope and the state.
“It was a grant that then seeded the program, and we’re modeling it after the West Orange Dental Alliance program,” Shepherd’s Hope President and CEO Pam Gould said. “I think it just rounds out all of the acute-care services we provide. … If you get gum disease and infections, it affects your entire health. And we were having to try to case-manage that out and get those issues rectified, and now we’re able to handle the emergency cases and get them good medical care with our dental partners.”
The West Orange Dental Alliance was founded and funded by the West Orange Health Alliance in 2017. Its mission is to offer a solution for affordable dental care — especially for those who frequent hospital emergency rooms because of dental pain.
Shepherd’s Hope and the West Orange Dental Alliance began discussing plans last fall, Gould said. Because of Shepherd’s Hope’s model, resources and infrastructure, it made sense to have the organization adopt the dental component. It was made possible thanks to funds from the West Orange Health Alliance, which is helping establish this new line of services.
Shortly after Shepherd’s Hope received the grant, COVID-19 hit, and for a while, the organization couldn’t see anybody. Since then, Shepherd’s Hope has been able to help a patient who needed absolute emergent care — and 19 teeth removed. Two dentists provided their services, and the patient had a scholarship that came from the West Orange Health Alliance to help with her new dentures.
As with many of Shepherd’s Hope’s services, the dental component will be focused mainly on acute care.
“We’re not going to do maintenance, but as people have really emergent dental issues, we will help them get out of pain, stay healthy, and we will continue doing smiles scholarships as we go along,” Gould said. “We’re putting in a chair and a panoramic X-ray machine into the West Orange building, and it’ll reside in West Orange. Until we can get the chair and all that up and running ... we’re using local dentists who have stepped up to volunteer.”
Gould added that Shepherd’s Hope needs more licensed dental providers and oral surgeons to partner with Shepherd’s Hope to provide these more intensive services to patients. Those who can help should visit Shepherd’s Hope’s website and fill out the online volunteer application.
Uninsured or underinsured patients in need of acute dental-care or health care services can contact Shepherd’s Hope at (407) 876-6699.