Janet Pearcey, executive director of the Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition, said patient demand outstrips capacity at the nonprofit dental clinic on Yampa Avenue.
“There continues to be a huge need,” Pearcey said.
However, the clinic has recently received two grants to help cope with demand.
The Caring for Colorado Foundation awarded the clinic a one-year, $42,000 grant for direct patient care, and the Colorado Health Foundation awarded a two-year grant of $104,000 to help pay for an additional provider.
The grant for direct patient care is flexible, Pearcey said.
“Direct patient care means we can use it wherever we need to,” Pearcey said. “That’s really beneficial because it’s not earmarked for one particular program or one particular line item. Wherever we need it, we can use it.”
Pearcey said the clinic is funded by an average of eight different yearly grants.
“We survive off foundations like Caring for Colorado Foundation, Colorado Health Foundation, United Way, donations, things of that nature,” Pearcey said.
The clinic, which opened in 2005, is the lone provider of dental care to low-income patients in Northwest Colorado, Pearcey said. Patients are charged on a sliding, income-based scale.
If not for the Dental Coalition, a lot of low-income patients wouldn’t receive dental treatment, Pearcey said.
“If they sought treatment, they would have to go to the Front Range,” she said. “That’s why the clinic was built. People couldn’t get from here to the places where these services were offered.”
The clinic sees a high volume of patients, but it is now poised to see even more.
Pearcey said the clinic hired a new dentist in September to help meet growing demand.
Dr. Owen Atkin of Bears Ears Dental Group now works at the clinic one day per week, on Wednesdays.
Atkin’s salary at the clinic will be supplemented by the grant from the Colorado Health Foundation, Pearcey said.
Atkin said he typically treats 12 to 16 patients on Wednesdays.
“That’s quite a few,” he said.
With the addition of Dr. Atkin, the clinic is poised to see more patients than ever before, Pearcey said.
“Thus far, we’ve seen about 1,300 unduplicated patients,” she said of 2010.
“Dr. Atkin has been a huge help, because prior to him coming on, we were very limited in the emergency care that we could do, and we were booked out six, seven weeks to get people in,” Pearcey said. “Now that Dr. Atkin is here, we’ve been able to decrease the wait time and get emergency patients in a timely fashion.”
In addition to Dr. Atkin’s part-time work, the clinic employs a full-time dentist and regularly hosts interns from the University of Colorado School of Dentistry.