SMILE! CAA OlyCAP works to increase access to affordable dental care in WA

Written by Rae Tamblyn, in conjunction with staff from WA Dept. of Commerce, Community Services & Housing Division and OlyCAP

Ever had a toothache? The agonizing pain in your jaw makes not only chewing painful, but also the daily demands of a job difficult. For many low-income families, good preventative dental care is out of reach and paying bills trumps a regular cleaning. For some folks, dental care deferred can lead to a potential high-cost emergency operation, further setting people back as they strive for self-sufficiency. Community Action Agencies (CAAs) like OlyCAP have the vision and flexibility to initiate and spearhead programs and partnerships to remove barriers facing low-income clients in their community.

 OlyCAP, a CAA serving Clallam and Jefferson County in Washington, partners with multiple service providers and organizations across several counties to connect people to the services they need to address their immediate needs and start them on the path towards self-sufficiency. Through their work and awareness of the local community and their clients’ situations, OlyCAP recognized that affordable dental care was a pressing issue. In January of 2014, OlyCAP partnered with VIMO (Volunteers in Medicine on the Olympics), as well as multiple local dentists, to start providing affordable care to low-income households needing emergency dental work.

Based on need, people are able to receive the dental work they need, which allows them to tackle other important daily activities. Take Randy* – Randy had been out of work for nine months; through support from OlyCAP and partners, Randy was able to access food, temporary jobs, and training that positioned him for an offer of permanent employment. Unfortunately, his toothache left him in so much pain, he was afraid he would be physically unable to meet the demands of the permanent job. Thanks to the partnership initiated by OlyCAP, Randy was able to get his tooth extracted, and accepted the job offer pain-free. Randy is just one of 4,000 clients who will be able to receive quality dental care from OlyCAP’s new partnership. These 4,000 clients will be able invest in long-term steps toward a dream of a self-reliant life, without a toothache or the prohibitive cost of an extraction keeping them from moving closer to their goals.


*name changed for privacy