Volunteer recruiting underway for CDA Cares Ventura

Ventura County is like most areas in California's coastal valleys - it has a significant agriculture population with many receiving health care through Medicaid and Denti-Cal. Mark Lisagor, DDS, practiced in Camarillo and Oxnard for many years and saw the need firsthand. But due to the low reimbursement rates and bureaucratic challenges of the Denti-Cal program, there aren't enough providers in the area to handle the need and many of those who are in pain end up in the emergency room.

"They get a prescription in the emergency room and get relief for a few days, but the ER is not equipped to solve the dental issue," Lisagor said.

To help alleviate some of the stress the Denti-Cal system has put on access to oral health care in Ventura County, Lisagor is serving as the local arrangements committee chair of CDA Cares Ventura, which will take place at the Ventura County Fairgrounds April 16 and 17. CDA Cares is a volunteer dental program that provides dental services at no charge to Californians who experience barriers to care. CDA Cares also educates the public and policymakers about the importance of good oral health and the need for an adequately funded dental safety net, which includes a well-functioning Denti-Cal program. CDA Cares dental volunteers help relieve pain and infection by offering extractions, fillings, cleanings and oral health education.

Lisagor volunteered at the last CDA Cares event in Fresno and hopes to gather volunteers in his area to bring the help needed for the patients in Ventura County.

"In Fresno, I saw families waiting with their kids outside in line overnight just to have a chance to get an extraction or a filling and some relief. It breaks your heart and puts a real face on the problem," Lisagor said. "As a dentist, I was overwhelmed with the scope of this project and how beautifully done it was. I consider myself an organized project manager, but I have never seen anything like CDA Cares. I came with new energy to make this happen in Ventura County."

Lisagor began practicing in Ventura County in 1977. Now retired, he volunteers in many roles. He is the chair of the Santa Barbara-Ventura Counties Dental Care Foundation where he works on projects to address access to care issues. The foundation runs a mobile clinic that goes to various sites around the county. Lisagor also leads trips to Nepal, India and Guatemala where he provides dental care for the underserved in those countries. With a heart wired for volunteering, Lisagor is pleased to be involved with CDA Cares to help people in his home state and county.

"In Fresno, I was taken by the countless expressions of gratitude from patients and family members toward every single volunteer they came in contact with. People were so grateful and appreciative that these volunteers would give their time on the weekend to make someone else's life better," Lisagor said. "The byproduct of this is that somebody, the dentists and other volunteers, thinks these patients matter. I have never seen so many people work so hard."

Lisagor is currently busy recruiting volunteers for CDA Cares Ventura and identifying community sponsors either requesting funds or in-kind donations.

"It costs a great deal of money to put these events on and hundreds of dental professionals and community volunteers," Lisagor said. "Most dentists give back every day in their practices already and nobody hears about it, but they take care of people who need a little extra help. The world doesn't know. So when I tell them about an opportunity like this it isn't anything they don't already do, so they get it."

At CDA Cares Ventura, dentists and dental professionals are needed in areas throughout the clinic, including restorative, numbing, pediatric, triage and routing. Dental team members are encouraged to volunteer as well. Community volunteers are needed to assist with registration, clinic setup, data entry, escorting patients, translating and much more.

Since CDA Cares began in 2012, volunteer dentists and dental professionals have provided $13.1 million in dental services to 16,080 people statewide. A total of 12,918 volunteers have made that possible.

For more information about CDA Cares and to register to volunteer, visit cdafoundation.org/cdacares.