The Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) and Green Shield Canada (GSC) are partnering in a cost-free dental program for those in the NWHU catchment area.
The program will offer access to dental care through several dental clinics and mobile dental buses throughout the region, all at no cost to eligible patients.
The program is geared towards low-income adults aged 18 to 64 who are not covered by private employer insurance or government programs.
“When we began our investigation of the oral healthcare landscape, we were surprised to discover the number of Canadians without adequate access to dentistry, approximately one third while millions of Canadians have access to care through private plans, often sponsored by their employer or purchased individually and others find coverage through government programs,” Zahid Salman, president and CEO at Green Shield Canada, said.
In November 2020, GSC launched the Green Door Project in collaboration with a multi-disciplinary team of researchers at the University of Toronto who are investigating the long-term impacts of access to quality oral health care.
Salman said they had to two key commitments in mind. The first commitment was to provide immediate help filling the gap in care by increasing service to the low-income population. He adds that GSC knew they could not close the gap on their own.
The second commitment was to invest in research that can inform and drive public policy forward.
GSC’s Green Door Project will provide an annual gift of $120,000 for three consecutive years to allow the NWHU to offer cost free care for hundreds of eligible low-income adults in the NWHU region who are currently unable to access regular dental care.
Salman said they have already begun treatment for their first patient.
The NWHU is currently offering dental services in the region through their mobile dental office and dental facilities in their Ignace, Pickle Lake and Dryden offices. The NWHU also has plans to expand its services through a second mobile dental office and has plans to open its first standalone clinic at the Mary Berglund Community Health Centre in Ignace in May.
“The expansion of the oral health adult services will reach our most vulnerable population in our region, currently without access and will help to reduce unnecessary trip to the hospital, prevent chronic disease and increase their quality of life, “Marilyn Herbacz, CEO of the NWHU, said.
Depending on the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, Herbacz said she expects the programs Mobile Dental Office to begin visiting clients across the region in the summer.
The NWHU estimates to help 100 people a year and will learn more as they go along.
Those interested can go to the NWHU dental health page to find more information.
Natali Trivuncic, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times