Dentists who help needy in Red River Valley now need a home

The Red River Valley Dental Access Project, which provided dental services to low-income people who couldn’t afford it, has been one of the success stories in Minnesota and North Dakota. For a $30 flat fee, volunteer dentists and dental specialists provide all the dental care needed. They don’t get paid and they put in all the hours needed.

But it all ended Tuesday; the project is being kicked out of its home since 2002, a Family Healthcare clinic, Fargo Forum reports.

“A lot of communities would be happy to have this safety net and knowing there are professionals out there willing to volunteer,” said Dr. Chris Schmaltz, one of the volunteers. “The whole drive behind this is doing good for the community. We don’t mind sharing our talents.”

Pulling together and sacrificing to help the underserved? Nice.

“It puts a burden on us with sharing the facility with another organization,” said Pat Gulbranson, CEO of Family Healthcare.

Family Healthcare also provides dental services with a tiered system that starts with a $40 copay.

“It’s an important mission for the community, and we wish them nothing but the best wherever their new home may be,” he said about the eviction notice.

The project was initially created because local emergency rooms were seeing an increase in patients with dental problems. Holman, former executive director of the North Dakota Dental Association who retired in 2014 after 36 years in the field, said it was a successful partnership with Family Healthcare for 16 years.

While the volunteer dentists realize their clinic won’t solve all the problems surrounding access to affordable dental care, Holman said it’s “an option for those people who have barriers to care.”

“It’s not the be-all, end-all,” he said. “But it’s one of the things you can add to the list that helps.”

The project doesn’t have a new home yet. It wants to find one somewhere that’s on a public transportation route.