New mobile dental clinic stops in St. Helens to offer services beyond Portland

AMANDA MILLS/CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION - Columbia County residents insured through the Oregon Health Plan have three choices for visiting a dentists office, but none in South county.  Oregon Health Plan members living in south Columbia County may have a hard time finding a dentist to visit.

A list of providers from the Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization shows only three offices— one in Clatskanie, one in Vernonia, and the other in Rainier— available in Columbia County to service OHP members.

Residents who rely on the state-managed health insurance plan have other offices in Washington and Multnomah counties they can visit, but very few within their own county, or within less than a 30 minute drive from south Columbia County.

To bridge the gap for some of its members, Columbia Pacific CCO recently added a mobile dental van that stops in St. Helens to serve OHP members who are patients of Tyack Dental Group, based in Clatskanie.

Appointments are recommended and the mobile dental clinic is available from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fridays for restorative work and urgent services. The van parks in the parking lot of the Legacy Medical Group clinic in St. Helens.

"People are healthier when their physical, mental and oral health works together," Safina Koreishi, M.D., medical director with Columbia Pacific CCO, stated in a news release about the mobile dental van.

"Integrating care has meant changing the way communities work together. We listen to our members and providers for ideas and make local investments to help make these changes."

OHP members can also see a pediatric dentist in St. Helens, but only on a referral basis.

Despite strides to boost access to dental care for state health plan members, some say the lack of choices leaves them commuting outside the county for oral care services.

Margaret Montgomery Harrel lives in Columbia County and uses OHP. She said with few convenient choices, she schedules her dental visits with a provider in Portland or Beaverton.

"Because of the long drive to all the dentists within Columbia County, we are opting for Willamette Dental," Montgomery Harrel said. "I wish there were more choices within Scappoose and St. Helens."

Alyssa Franzen, dental director for Columbia Pacific CCO, says the goal is to add more services for OHP members, likely at the mobile clinic.

"We will be working with Dr. Tyack, ODS and Capitol to evaluate this program over the next couple of months," Franzen stated in a news release last fall. "As the clinic grows, we will work with the practice to look at adding additional services, such as preventive care with dental hygienists."

Mobile dentists:

What: Oregon Health Plan members who are established patients with Tyack Dental Group in Clatskanie can receive services in St. Helens via a mobile dental clinic.

When: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fridays

Where: Legacy Medical Group clinic in St. Helens, 500 N. Columbia River Hwy., St. Helens

To make an appointment: Patients are asked to call 503-728-8970 for an appointment.

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