Delta Dental Foundation COVID Emergency Fund

Foundation provides emergency aid

Foundation provides emergency aid

In times of change and uncertainty, safety-net dental clinics and nonprofit organizations are asked to do more than ever before.

In March, the Delta Dental Foundation (DDF) created a $600,000 COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund for safety-net dental clinics and nonprofits in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana that work with vulnerable populations including seniors, foster children and low-income individuals, and that provide health and human services or food assistance.

“There is an unprecedented level of need in our nonprofit community,” says Holli Seabury, DDF executive director. “We are aware that our health care providers are facing critical needs, and the nonprofits who provide food assistance are struggling. This fund was designed to help meet the greatest needs of our communities.”

Safety-net dental clinics play a critical role in treating the underserved, uninsured and the Medicaid population, typically the demographic most likely to use the hospital emergency room if they have a dental emergency. However, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic it has been imperative that hospital emergency rooms not be overwhelmed with patients who could be treated elsewhere.

Funding went to organizations that provide oversight to networks of federally qualified health centers and safety-net clinics including Michigan Primary Care Association, My Community Dental Centers, Ohio Association of Community Health Centers and Indiana Primary Health Care Association. Each received $50,000 grants. Emergency dental clinics at University of Detroit Mercy, University of Michigan, Ohio State University and Indiana University each received $15,000.

Funding also went to food banks and pantries, hospitals, homeless shelters, and other community organizations providing critical services. With unemployment at the highest rates since the Great Depression, these organizations have become overwhelmed by the rising demand for their services. In some areas, the need for food assistance has increased by 60 percent.

In addition to funding, the DDF donated more than 50,000 toothbrushes to grantees, along with educational resources about emergency dental services and how to locate clinics that are open to treat such emergencies.


Elderly woman walking way form camera

Supporting seniors during the pandemic

Supporting seniors during the pandemic

During the coronavirus pandemic, senior citizens are self-isolating to protect themselves from the virus, but isolation creates its own set of problems.

More than half of the seniors in the U.S. qualify as low-income, and many rely on part-time jobs to make financial ends meet. When businesses shut down, many seniors lost their jobs or left jobs because of fear of contracting the virus. This has meant many seniors cannot buy the food they need or pay their rent or utilities.

Many senior citizens also live alone and have lost the socialization they had at church, in volunteer activities, and by visiting with friends and family. When senior centers closed, many seniors lost access to both a daily meal and a source of social contact. Levels of depression and anxiety grew from both isolation and the fear of contracting the virus.

As the Delta Dental Foundation (DDF) looked at developing our COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, we intentionally sought to fund organizations that assist seniors. Many that serve seniors, like food pantries, also rely on seniors as volunteer staff. The self-isolation recommendations have meant that not only has the demand for services increased for these agencies, volunteer labor has decreased. This means more staff hours are needed, putting an additional strain on the budgets of these organizations.

Across Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, the DDF used our $600,000 COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to dozens of organizations that provide food assistance or other services to seniors. Funding went to groups such as Meals on Wheels, which delivers nutritious meals to homebound seniors, the Community Transportation Network in Fort Wayne, which provides rides to seniors, and the Tri-County Office on Aging in Lansing, where DDF funding provided toothbrushes, toothpaste and toilet paper to home-bound seniors.

Not only does financial assistance help, but Delta Dental employees also have volunteered their time.

Rick Lantz, vice president of government relations, volunteered with the Tri-County Office on Aging (TCOA) conducting check-in calls.

“I have a list of 13 seniors I have been calling weekly since the end of March,” Lantz says. “As you can imagine, even in normal conditions, seniors can feel lonely and isolated. That is amplified significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I reach out to them each week to see if they have the essentials, like enough food and their prescriptions. If they voice a need that TCOA can help with, I report that back to TCOA. I also just provide a listening ear and make sure they know they are not alone. I’ve come to appreciate how difficult is to be stuck at home for lengthy periods of time. I hope my calls provide a bit of comfort to these seniors.”


Dr. Tim Zielinski

On a mission

On a mission

Dr. Tim Zielinski is a busy man. This spring he was busier than ever.

When his dental practice in Mason, Michigan, temporarily closed due to COVID-19, he saw a surge in patients at Care Free Medical in Lansing where he volunteers his talents.

Care Free Medical is a safety-net clinic providing medical, dental, optometry and behavioral health care to people with limited access to the health care system.

The Delta Dental Foundation has been a longtime supporter of Care Free Medical and in the past year provided $26,000 in support of their dental services. The clinic treats thousands of area patients each year by offering low-cost preventive hygiene care and monthly extraction clinics through a compassionate group of volunteer dentists along with one part-time paid dentist.

Care Free Medical, located at 1100 W. Saginaw St, Suite 5, Lansing, MI 48915, provides medical, dental, optometry and behavioral health care to people with limited access to the health care system.

Dr. Tim Zielinski selfie

It’s a tear-jerking thing to see these people, but we get them in and take care of them. It’s like a Monopoly game.We have to get the puzzle right.

Dr. Tim Zielinski

Because emergency rooms became overrun with high-need patients dealing with complications due to COVID-19, more and more patients without insurance visited safety-net clinics like Care Free to relieve their dental pain.

“It’s a mission for me to go in there and help these people. They can’t go to the ERs right now,” Zielinski said in March.

He saw up to 30 people a day at Care Free, about 10 more patients a day than he normally would.

“It’s a tear-jerking thing to see these people, but we get them in and take care of them. It’s like a Monopoly game,” Zielinski said. “We have to get the puzzle right.”

He witnessed hugs, kisses, tears and joy from patients who are grateful for the care they’ve received.

“They are just so relieved to get that infection or tooth out that they’ve waited months and months for,” he said.


Amy Gentner and Kayla Weatherwax

‘It is a war out there, and it is not going to be won by just a couple of people’

It is a war out there, and it is not going to be won by just a couple of people’

– Dr. Amy Gentner

When Dr. Amy Gentner and her associate Dr. Kayla Weatherwax realized this spring there was a need in their community for personal protection equipment (PPE) amid the coronavirus crisis, her small town roots kicked into full gear.

Gentner owns Gentner Family Dentistry, which has been in St. Johns, Michigan, for 15 years—a trusted small business in the farming community.

Amy Gentner and Kayla Weatherwax
Gentner Family Dentistry Building

Despite the coronavirus shutting down just about everything in town in March, she and Weatherwax saw some patients on an emergency basis, but they still had an overflow of supplies and PPE.

Answering the call from local health care institutions, Gentner went through her supply cabinet and found hundreds of masks, surgical gowns and 25 pair of scrubs that were going unused, and she donated them to Ouch Urgent Care in St. Johns. She also donated masks and cleaning supplies to Clinton Area Ambulance Services for paramedic use.

“We’re small town dentists supporting our small town hospital and urgent cares,” Gentner said. “Everyone that I’ve talked to is trying to help in different ways.”


Monroe, Michigan teenager grinning ear to ear to show off new smile

Stepping in to fix a smile

Stepping in to fix a smile

When bad things happen, we often rely on our family and friends to help us pick up the pieces—not our health care providers.

When a Monroe, Michigan, teenager was the center of a racially motivated attack, a local dentist and Delta Dental of Michigan provider stepped up to help.

Read the story from Fox 2 Detroit. Click here.


Rethink Your Drink

Foundation Quarterly: Indiana

Delta Dental Foundation logo

Foundation Quarterly: Indiana

The Delta Dental Foundation's Quarterly Update

Indiana Mission of Mercy

This year, the Delta Dental Foundation (DDF) supported the Indiana Mission of Mercy (MOM), which brings together more than 900 dentists, dental hygienists and other volunteers to provide free dental care for the underinsured and uninsured in Indiana every two years. In 2019, MOM made its way to Fort Wayne and provided more than $900,000 of dental work to one thousand patients in just two days. Participants received cleanings, extractions, root canals and crowns along with resources and education for future dental care.

Delta Dental Foundation Care Free Medical

Recently approved grants

  • $25,000 to Care Free Medical for a new, expanded dental clinic. This new clinic will be located in an underserved area in Lansing, Michigan with the ability to become a federally qualified health center (FQHC). It will have seven dental operatories.
  • $100,000 to Primary Health Solutions to equip a dental operatory in the Edgewood, Ohio school-based health center. This clinic will serve both students and the community.
  • $225,000 to Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for oral health programs. Programs supported include SEAL! Michigan which provides dental sealants to children at no cost through school programs, as well as community water fluoridation equipment grants.

SEAL Indiana

SEAL Indiana is a mobile dental sealant program operated by the Indiana University School of Dentistry (IUSD) that serves children from low-income families across the state. The DDF has helped fund the program since 2006 and provides educational materials to participating children. IUSD students help provide the services, which also include a dental exam and fluoride varnish application. Children also receive a toothbrush and oral hygiene instructions.

SEAL Indiana
Smile Squad Program

Smile Squad Girl Scout Patch Program

The DDF is relaunching the Smile Squad Girl Scout Patch program in October. Girl Scouts will also have the ability to work toward four other badges while doing the Smile Squad program. The program encourages girls to learn about oral health and how it relates to overall health while completing at least three activities in discover, connect and take action categories. DDF provides participating councils with all materials needed to complete the patch program.

Rethink Your Drink: Water's Cool at School

During the 2018-2019 school year, 21 schools in Indiana received DDF Water’s Cool at School program grants. Through this program, existing water fountains are replaced with new water filtration systems, and all students and staff are given reusable water bottles to encourage more water consumption throughout the day. Drinking sugary beverages can have many negative effects on children, and providing them with clean, fresh water throughout the day can help instill healthy habits.

Rethink Your Drink


Ohio Ambulatory Surgery Center

Foundation Quarterly: Ohio

Delta Dental Foundation logo

Foundation Quarterly: Ohio

The Delta Dental Foundation's Quarterly Update

Ambulatory Surgery Center

The Ohio State University College of Dentistry is building a new dental school facility that will include an Ambulatory Surgery Center thanks to a $2 million grant from the Delta Dental Foundation (DDF). This will be a state-of-the-art facility with a goal of providing services to adults who are developmentally disabled and need extensive care and treatment. Currently, the OSU College of Dentistry is the only provider for this population in the state and has a wait list of up to one year. With this expansion, they will be able to see three times the amount of patients annually.

HealthSource Ribbon Cutting

Recently approved grants

  • $25,000 to Care Free Medical for a new, expanded dental clinic. This new clinic will be located in an underserved area in Lansing, Michigan with the ability to become a federally qualified health center (FQHC). It will have seven dental operatories.
  • $100,000 to Primary Health Solutions to equip a dental operatory in the Edgewood, Ohio school-based health center. This clinic will serve both students and the community.
  • $225,000 to Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for oral health programs. Programs supported include SEAL! Michigan which provides dental sealants to children at no cost through school programs, as well as community water fluoridation equipment grants.

West Clermont School-Based Clinic

HealthSource of Ohio has partnered with the DDF to equip the West Clermont School District with a new school-based health center. The DDF provided a grant to equip four dental operatories for the center’s health clinic. The center offers dental, medical, vision and behavioral health services to students and community members who may have limited transportation or are covered by Medicaid. Dental screenings will be provided at all West Clermont schools, and preventive and restorative services will be available at the clinic.

Delta Dental Foundation and Honor Community Health
Delta Dental Foundation and Case Western Reserve University

Case Western Reserve University

The DDF provided $1 million to help establish the Delta Dental Advanced Education in General Dentistry Clinic at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) as a part of the new dental clinic on campus. CWRU will continue to provide dental services to people in Cleveland who may otherwise not be able to afford dental care. DDF’s grant will help to provide dental equipment for the clinic’s 210 operatories.

Cleveland Clinic Children's School-based Healthcare Program

Cleveland Clinic Children’s School-based Healthcare program is teaming up with the DDF to provide oral health assessments to children and connect them with more dental resources. As a part of the program, a new school-based clinic and mobile health unit will be in operation with a focus on Northeast Ohio. In its fifth year, the program is able to reach 23 schools and around 1,700 students.

Cleveland Clinic School-based Clinic


Delta Dental Serving Smiles to Seniors

Foundation Quarterly: Michigan

Delta Dental Foundation logo

Foundation Quarterly: Michigan

The Delta Dental Foundation's Quarterly Update

Serving Smiles to Seniors

Seniors across Michigan received free oral health screenings when Smiles on Wheels traveled to 13 sites throughout the state for the Serving Smiles to Seniors program. While attending a fun lunch program, seniors received a free oral health screening and listened to an oral health/nutrition presentation.

Delta Dental Foundation Care Free Medical

Recently approved grants

  • $25,000 to Care Free Medical for a new, expanded dental clinic. This new clinic will be located in an underserved area in Lansing, Michigan with the ability to become a federally qualified health center (FQHC). It will have seven dental operatories.
  • $100,000 to Primary Health Solutions to equip a dental operatory in the Edgewood, Ohio school-based health center. This clinic will serve both students and the community.
  • $225,000 to Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for oral health programs. Programs supported include SEAL! Michigan which provides dental sealants to children at no cost through school programs, as well as community water fluoridation equipment grants.

Honor Community Health Floss Cutting

Honor Community Health in Oakland County, Michigan, has officially launched its Healthy Smiles Mobile Unit, thanks to a $500,000 grant from the Delta Dental Foundation (DDF). This mobile unit contains three dental chairs and has already seen more than 800 patients this year. Those who visit the clinic are able to receive oral cancer screenings, routine dental screenings, sealants, fluoride treatments and X-rays. The new mobile dental coach opening was celebrated during a “floss-cutting” ceremony in August.

Delta Dental Foundation and Honor Community Health

Michigan Initiative for Maternal and Infant Oral Health (MIMIOH)

A $630,000 grant from the DDF is helping the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry expand its MIMIOH project into four new FQHC sites across the state. MIMIOH integrates dental services into a primary care setting for at-risk pregnant women. The goal is to improve oral health outcomes for both mother and baby through a dental hygienist embedded in OB/GYN clinics. The hygienists provide preventive dental care, oral health instruction and referrals to dentists for long-term care.

University of Michigan Victors for Veterans

Funded by the DDF, the Victors for Veterans dental clinic, located in Traverse City, helps veterans who have no dental benefits. The clinic operates out of Northwest Michigan Health Services, an FQHC. The University of Michigan School of Dentistry faculty and dental students provide the dental services, and reached more than 150 veterans in 2018. Victors for Veterans helps fill a critical need for the thousands of veterans in Michigan who have no dental benefits.

Victors for Veterans


Victors for Veterans

Serving those who served

Serving those who served

Veteran Gary Nelson’s story is all too common. He enjoyed good oral health his entire life until six years of cancer treatments destroyed his teeth. The cancer treatments also made it impossible for Gary to work, and he became homeless, with chronic pain in the few teeth he had left.

Without the ability to chew healthy foods, Gary couldn’t keep his blood sugar under control, and he lost his leg to complications of diabetes.

Luckily, Gary found the Victors for Veterans dental clinic in Traverse City, Michigan, and was able to receive dentures.

Funded by the Delta Dental Foundation, the Victors for Veterans dental clinic helps veterans who have no dental benefits. The clinic operates out of Northwest Michigan Health Services, a federally qualified health center in Traverse City.

University of Michigan School of Dentistry faculty and dental students provide the dental services, reaching more than 150 veterans in 2018. The clinic helps to fill a critical need for the thousands of veterans in Michigan who have no dental benefits.

For Gary, he is thrilled to be eating healthy foods again.

“You can’t believe how good a salad tastes when you haven’t been able to eat one for years,” he says.

Gary is now able to manage his diabetes with a well-balanced diet, and his new smile tells anyone all they need to know about how he feels about Victors for Veterans.


Choosing water

Choosing water

Clean water for Detroit students

The Delta Dental Foundation (DDF) and other philanthropic partners committed $2.4 million to replace all of the drinking fountains in Detroit Public Schools Community District with hydration stations that filter out contaminants, just weeks after Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, Ed.D., shut down the old fountains because of elevated lead levels.

The DDF’s contribution of $300,000 funded the installation of 66 hydration stations at 14 schools.

David Boye, a sixth-grade teacher at Munger Elementary-Middle School, is confident the hydration stations will be a huge health and safety upgrade.

“Staff and students are already excited about getting the stations up and running,” he says.

Access to plentiful, clean drinking water throughout the school day helps students stay focused and energized. In addition, having convenient sources of clean drinking water at school encourages students to choose water over sugary drinks, which is great for teeth and bodies.

In the news:

Crain's Detroit Business- Detroit schools secures $2.4 million for water contamination solution

Joining forces to reduce sugar consumption

With a shared interest in keeping Michigan families healthy, the Delta Dental Foundation and the American Heart Association teamed up in 2018 on the Rethink Your Drink MI campaign.

The campaign was designed to increase awareness of the potential health consequences of sugary beverages, including hypertension, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, tooth decay, obesity and more. The campaign targeted households in Detroit, Grand Rapids and mid-Michigan, and included billboards, TV, radio and social media.

A kickoff event at the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum had schoolchildren scoop 34 pounds of sugar into a wheelbarrow—the amount an average American consumes every year just from sugary drinks.

See the campaign at

www.rethinkyourdrinkmi.org

The Rethink Your Drink MI campaign used social media to highlight popular sugary beverages.

Quenching thirst

The Rethink Your Drink: Water’s Cool at School program had another successful year.

The Delta Dental Foundation (DDF) partnered with the Michigan Education Special Services Association (MESSA) to commit $300,000 to install new hydration stations in 104 schools in Michigan. And the DDF invested $100,000 in Indiana for 23 schools.

Since the Water’s Cool at School launch in 2016, 133,761 students and staff in 219 schools across Michigan, Ohio and Indiana are now benefiting from clean, cold, filtered water and water bottles donated by the DDF.

The DDF also committed to installing hydration stations in five community centers in Michigan and Indiana in 2018:

  • Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum
    Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Impression 5 Science Center
    Lansing, Michigan
  • Longway Planetarium
    Flint, Michigan
  • Woldumar Nature Center
    Lansing, Michigan
  • Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
    Indianapolis, Indiana

There’s plenty of water in the universe without life, but nowhere is there life without water.

—Sylvia A. Earle, american oceanographer and first woman to serve as chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.