Clinics are filling community health needs

FRESNO -- Nationwide, dental care has been cited as the greatest unmet health need for children.

But last Wednesday, Magdalena Cortez easily secured a dental visit for her 2-year-old son Juan Luis Galvez. They simply walked from their home in Fresno to the mobile dental unit stationed in the parking lot of Clínica Sierra Vista's Orange and Butler Community Center.

Sitting in one of two operating chairs in Clínica's Smile Mobile -- essentially a small dentist office on wheels -- Cortez said the dental unit has proven to be a huge help for her family.

"Medi-Cal doesn't cover dental services for adults -- only children," she said in Spanish.

The mobile dental unit is just one way Clínica Sierra Vist, and community health centers across the county, are meeting the needs of underserved residents, clinic CEO Steve Schilling said Wednesday morning during an event in recognition of National Health Center Week.

National Health Center Week, which runs from Aug. 7, 2011 -- Aug. 13, 2011, recognizes the approximately 1,200 community health centers nationwide, with about 8,000 locations, that serve about 20 million people, Schilling said.

During the event, Schilling announced the beginning of an effort to connect low-income Fresno-area kids with dental services.

As part of that campaign, he said, Clínica Sierra Vista would bring the mobile dental unit to daycares and Head Start programs and offer screenings. The goal, he said, would be to connect children with the clinic's two Fresno-area dental facilities.

City councilmember Sal Quintero presented Schilling with a certificate and proclaimed Aug. 10, 2011 as Clínica Sierra Vista and National Health Center Day in the city.

Community health centers, Quintero said, "have always served the underserved areas in our community -- and especially the migrant families -- so I believe (clinics) are a critical part of our community."

Send e-mail to: