North Country HealthCare’s Medical/Dental Integration Program Expands During COVID-19

North Country HealthCare dental hygienist performing an exam on a child

I have spent over 20 years working in philanthropy in a variety of roles, but mostly in grantmaking. The relationship between the funding organization and the recipient can sometimes be viewed as paternal, with the organization funding the projects as the parent and the recipient being the child.

I’ve never looked at my grantee-funder relationships that way.  I feel the funder has a job to do – follow their mission by strategically utilizing funds to make impact.  The programs run by the grantees are how the mission gets carried out.  The relationship is very much a partnership.  Both sides need the other to make an impact.

Delta Dental of Arizona staff standing in front of North Country HealthCare during a site visit

Delta Dental of Arizona’s Partnership with North Country HealthCare

A typical funder visits grantees every few years to meet their partners in person, see how the funded programs are working and if there are other ways to help these organizations achieve greater impact.  A group from Delta Dental of Arizona, including Michael Jones, CEO of Delta Dental of Arizona and chair of the foundation board of directors, made a site visit recently to North Country HealthCare in Flagstaff, AZ.  Primarily, the group went to visit the dental clinic and meet Chloe Strike, RDH, who manages the Medical/Dental Integration program funded by Delta Dental of Arizona (DDAZ) Foundation.

North Country HealthCare received a grant from DDAZ Foundation in January 2020 to implement a program to embed dental education, dental screenings and fluoride varnish treatment in pediatric medical visits. They also received a grant in 2021 and 2022. Currently, hygienists from the four North Country dental clinics are assigned to six of the 13 medical clinics to perform these preventive services to underserved or uninsured patients. These patients often need preventive care the most as they are less likely to visit the dentist on a regular basis. These screenings also allow the hygienists to see if any of the patients have urgent oral health needs like an abscess or cavities. They can immediately move the patients to the dental clinic to receive the urgent care they need.

Chloe Strike, dental hygienist with North Country HealthCareNorth Country HealthCare’s Team of Experts 

Upon meeting Chloe Strike in person, we were immediately impressed with her rapport with the entire medical and dental team and her in depth knowledge of the program.  She explained to us how Covid actually helped the Medical/Dental Integration program run more smoothly, despite the program being halted for a while.  “North Country shut down the dental clinic soon after Covid hit.  The hygienists were redeployed to perform daily Covid tests for employees.  This redeployment allowed the hygienists to meet employees from all across the clinic,” said Chloe. “They were able to form quick friendships as they saw the employees every day.”

When the hygienists were allowed to return to the pediatric medical appointments, they were welcomed as familiar co-workers, rather than part-time visitors who took up time with their patients.  “I am so impressed with how we were welcomed back into the medical clinic,” said Chloe. “That made it so much easier to run the program and provide education and preventive services to the patients who need it most.”

In 2020, North Country was able to provide 1,383 children this preventive care in this program and then in 2021, an impressive 3,204 patients were seen!  The program is continuing to expand as North Country is opening additional dental clinics this year and hired two additional hygienists for the program. 

This is an important partnership for Delta Dental in northern Arizona and we are most grateful for the impact North Country makes for the children who need it most in their community.

Learn more about our grantees and the oral health programming we support in the community:

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