The organized chaos on the evening of Wednesday, July 16, 2014
was an orchestrated collaboration of three agencies to ensure
Spanish-speaking families received the preventive dental
treatment that is so often overlooked in low-income households.
Adelante, Inc., CareNet,
and the Dental Center of Northwest Ohio, 2138 Madison
Ave., teamed up to take care of short-term needs that are a
whole lot cheaper to provide now than long-term health problems
that could develop down the road through neglect, when someone
may be forced to go to an emergency room for a serious medical
“Of course, we’re going to do whatever we can to connect our
clients with the agencies that are being so generous on nights
like this,” said Stephanie Serda, who returned to
Adelante about a month ago as the agency’s director of programs
and services. “Not everyone has the opportunity to go get your
teeth cleaned and all the other necessary things that keep you
“It’s very important. We’re hoping to make this their dental
home and that they feel comfortable coming here,” said Debbie
Lizcano, dental clinic director. “We love working with the
community and serving them.”
Even with passage of the Affordable Care Act, there are still
low-income families who fall through the healthcare
cracks—families who don’t qualify for Medicaid in Ohio or some
other type of coverage. So CareNet, now in its tenth year,
quietly continues to work to provide medical, vision, and dental
services to those with no insurance.
Dental care almost always “slips through because they don’t
think it’s as important” as medical or vision care in the minds
of many uninsured families, according to the dental clinic
director. So routine cleanings and exams often are
overlooked—and the lack of such preventive care can be
disastrous for young children.
“As the decay continues, infections are able to get worse. They
may end up in the hospital—so it’s best to get them in as soon
as possible, starting at age six months,” said Ms. Lizcano. “We
never turn a child away. When they’re here, we try to do as much
as possible—because we never know if they’re going to bring them
back or not.”
The special evening was only supposed to last two hours. But
volunteers patiently worked well beyond that window of time to
ensure each child and adult received the best dental care
“We like seeing a full lobby. We see it every day,” said Ms.
Lizcano, who stated the clinic sees 3,000-plus patients each
year. A mobile dental clinic also travels each summer to the
migrant farm worker camps to ensure other Spanish-speaking
families receive treatment on location.
even waited patiently in another room to help ensure the
long-term healthcare needs of the families would be met and
their questions answered. The CareNet navigator helps families
through their health insurance options—either signing up for
Medicaid or obtaining a government-backed, low-cost policy
through the marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act. But
even the latter may still prove too expensive for many
low-income families who would need to file for an exemption from
obtaining mandatory health insurance.
“With an exemption from the marketplace and a denial from
Medicaid, you can still stay on CareNet,” she said. “If you’re a
non-U.S. citizen, you can stay on CareNet. Otherwise, we’re not
insurance, so you can’t stay on CareNet without being fined by
the (federal) government. We’re trying to make sure they have
some medical in case something happens, they’ve got assistance.”
CareNet was founded as a community partnership a decade ago to
provide free or low-cost healthcare services to people without
insurance. The agency’s role continues to evolve with the
complicated rollout of the Affordable Care Act’s requirements.
While the agency once served between 5,000 and 6,000 people per
year, those numbers have dwindled to about 2,500 as CareNet
members obtain insurance through Medicaid. People who need to
sign up can call Medicaid at 1-800-324-8680 or contact United
Way’s 211 telephone helpline.
“It’s hard to catch everybody from where I am,” she said. “There
are still a lot of people out there (in need of health
CareNet continues to serve as the last resort for undocumented
families, a stopgap at best with its limited resources.
“They sign up through Adelante. They send me the application and
get them in the system and get them cards so they can get
medication, testing, dentist visits,” she said.
At times, it becomes a frustrating system for Spanish-speaking
families because of the complicated nature of obtaining health
insurance and the built-in language barrier. In almost all
cases, an interpreter is needed—and often lacking.
Ms. Serda’s homecoming of sorts rounds out a completely
bilingual staff at Adelante to better serve its client base and
the community at-large. Toledo continues to see a large influx
of Spanish-speaking families.
“I love it—whatever I can do to help out in the community. It’s
great to be back,” said Ms. Serda, who previously worked with
Adelante’s youth programs from 2008 to 2011. “Even today, I saw
some of the kids who were in my afterschool program—and they’re
a couple of feet taller now. It’s great to be able to see the
Adelante staff won’t solely rely on obtaining grants because,
like many Toledo-area nonprofits, the Latino Resource Center is
seeing both government and private foundation grants shrink in
size and scope. The agency will hold its first-ever carnival
fundraiser at the Believe Center on Saturday, August 9.
“We definitely want to make sure the programs we have now are
strengthened before we expand anything,” said Ms. Serda. “We
have some high hopes for what we have coming along in the