“The simplest language in the world is a smile.”
That was the message from Madison’s Deputy Mayor, Dr. Linda Vakunta, and the message that Affordable Dental Care (ADC) delivered to the public last week at their press conference celebrating a $759 equity payback grant. $000 granted by the Wisconsin Department of Administration. Vakunta, deputy mayor of Madison, was among a small list of speakers who gave their thoughts on CDA’s important work.
“At the Department of Health Services, we truly believe that every Wisconsin resident has the right to comprehensive or oral health care throughout their lifetime,” said Karen Timberlake, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. . “We know that care should be affordable, it should be accessible, and it should be delivered in a culturally and linguistically appropriate way with humility.
Affordable Dental Care Chairman and President Jason Krause and Dane County Sheriff Kalvin Barret also spoke on themes of community, hope and providing life-changing services to people in times of need. That same sentiment was echoed by Melissa Agard, Senator for District 16 in Madison, as she spoke about the need for more people-centered work in multiple spaces.
“I know that strong communities are built on compassionate people, who believe in what we can do when we roll up our sleeves, and see each other for the humanity and humility we carry into our lives,” Agard said. . “And, frankly, we need more of that in the state of Wisconsin and in our Capitol building.”
CDA’s impact on the community was evidenced by the testimony of a patient who credits the work of CDA, in particular the Executive Director, Areli Estrada, with providing great service and rarely expected experience in oral health. To date, Estrada’s work with ADC has been defined by his dedication to helping the community, as their North Side Madison location is in a place that needs his services.
“We are in a health desert,” Estrada said. “The demand for our services is really high. But we don’t have the professionals, there is a shortage of clinical professionals. I had trouble finding a hygienist. So there is even a problem with the workforce. Everything is very competitive.
Having the space and staff to provide services has been the most pressing issue for affordable dental care. While the $759,000 grant was crucial to hiring staff to expand ADC’s reach and visibility, the funds are not available to purchase their current building or other potential spaces in Madison.
“We see someone who doesn’t have dental insurance, no one is turned away, we want to see them,” Estrada said. “We are expanding our space. Currently, it takes almost four months for a patient to see our hygienist. These are patients who have severe gum disease. We want to eliminate gingivitis and we really want to take care of their oral health. Eventually, these patients, we want them to get to a point where they go to the dentist for their routine appointments.
However, ADC’s current location at 2110 Fordem Ave still serves as a space of comfort and reassurance for the community, and Estrada lets it be known that is exactly the atmosphere they seek to create.
“I just encourage people to come to our clinic. I love giving tours,” she said. “I think once people learn more about our mission and our work, about what we do, they become really engaged in our work and they start to support our efforts. So I just encourage people to find out more about what we do and stop by our clinic.
The community in turn responded not only with their participation in Thursday’s event, but also with the feelings they left for the ADC family.
“Our patients come back and they say to us, ‘No one has ever treated me with such dignity and respect, and your clinic does that for me here,'” Estrada said. “And we really make sure they’re safe and feel comfortable. It is such a beautiful place and environment and all it takes is for you to come and see it. And I think it’s hard not to fall in love with our mission once there and experience it for yourself.
This response is no coincidence given the efforts of the CDA team to provide accessible and welcoming care to their patients. At the same time, Estrada seeks to emphasize the importance of oral care beyond the physical health of the mouth itself.
“We give people back their smile and thanks to that, their self-esteem improves, their confidence improves. They are able to find a job. Making people smile every day transforms their lives.
ADC serves as a special place for those who are uninsured or underinsured to receive oral health care at a more affordable cost, but it is also special in the other barriers it breaks down – especially language barriers. when trying to seek quality health care.
“We engage the Spanish-speaking population,” Estrada said. “They don’t know about our services, so we’re going to run a dental training workshop in Spanish with the Latin American Workforce Development Academy with our ESL students.
“Then we also try to get a career path certificate. We recently held a dental education workshop in Spanish with Planned Parenthood, we did it with NewBridge. Then we try to get on the Spanish radio station.
Estrada makes it clear that the ADC team is constantly listening and engaged in its role of representing and serving the diverse and underrepresented communities in Madison.
“We are with the people, we are not for the people, we are with the people and we work together. We’re working to improve their systemic health and empower them, and that’s really great,” she said. “For me, it’s like we’re living it. This is who we are, our clinic. So we don’t have to put it in writing just to cover our bases. Alright, but all it takes is for you to be there to show up and experience it for yourself.
Even though ADC can always use more support from community members who may have access to funds or resources to expand and continue their mission, Estrada and the ADC team are not at all disappointed with the trajectory they are on. move towards.
“I just want to acknowledge my thanks to Governor Tony Ever’s administration for the Equity Recovery Grant and their support,” Estrada said. “This is the first time we have received a grant from the Department of Administration. We stop at nothing, we move forward and expand our space. We are therefore in great demand to expand and become owners of our building.
Visit Affordable Dental Care Website to learn more about the organization or visit their current location at 2110 Fordem Ave to experience their work first hand.