The Pediatric Dental Initiative is one of only three dental surgery nonprofits for low-income and uninsured children with severe tooth decay. The organization recently expanded its services to outreach and prevention programs and since its beginnings has more than doubled capacity.

Local philanthropists help match gift; center serves 150 kids a month

WINDSOR, NORTH BAY –The Pediatric Dental Initiative, one of only three low-income-serving surgery centers in California, garnered approval recently for a prominent $50,000 matching grant.

Already, some of the North Bay’s most recognized philanthropists have poured in support for the program that has faced repeated state funding cuts and delays.

“We have seen that children’s oral health is a pervasive, heart-wrenching problem in many of the central and Northern California communities ... and PDI is one of a precious few organizations that are seriously addressing the problem,” said Ken Doane, program officer for the S.H. Cowell Foundation, which is providing the matching grant.

In less than two years in operation, the PDI surgery center in Windsor has doubled its procedure capacity and added new prevention and outreach offerings. The program was seeded by a California Endowment grant and is meant to fine-tune the model for others to replicate, but ongoing state reimbursement reductions have challenged the sustainability of the program.

“We are challenged not only by the cuts to our direct funding, but also pressure on all of our community clinic partners. It doesn’t do a lot of good if we do surgery on a child’s teeth but then have nowhere to send them for cleanings and follow-up,” said PDI Chief Executive Officer Viveka Rydell.

“Funding is a maze right now and has meant a lot more hand-holding on our end, more intense case management to make sure families have a dental medical home.”

The center provides tooth extraction, caps and crowns and other surgery for severely decaying teeth for children as north as Humboldt and as far as Butte and Del Norte, in addition to the entire North Bay. Patients are also provided transportation if needed and even hotel accommodations if they travel a long distance. Most patients in the underserved community would be forced into the emergency room without PDI, officials said. The center serves about 11 children daily, or about 150 a month.

During the past year, the organization has focused efforts on outreach and prevention, performing community screenings and funding a field case manager. PDI staff participate in community events and pass out toothbrushes and other tools meant to promote oral health.

So far, Connie Codding has donated $10,000 toward the matching grant, and former Quivira Vineyards owners Henry and Holly Wendt gave $20,000. Jeannie Schulz, Martinelli Winery and Clover Stornetta also participated, and Kaiser Permanente promised $10,000 for the effort.

The organization needs about $6,500 more to meet the Cowell grant. The group is hosting its annual fundraising luncheon Oct. 29 at Charlie’s at the Windsor Golf Course.

Ms. Rydell said the grant will be used to cover a past debt obligation and work toward raising some reserves. Ultimately, the organization hopes to be self-sustaining.

“There is so much ebb and flow in the funding stream from the state that we want to build our structure so we can prepare for drastic revenue changes in the future,” she said.