HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - With non-emergency dental services halted due to COVID-19, some staff members at Kokua Kalihi Valley were facing furloughs.
But a $140,000 grant from Hawaii Dental Service is allowing them to stay on the job ― while helping their community respond to the pandemic.
“We are so grateful,” said Dr. Matthew Oishi, a dentist at the community health center.
“This redeployment has not only given us a broader perspective but has also prevented the need for staff furloughs and layoffs.”
Thanks to the grant, Kokua Kalihi Valley’s team of 25 dentists, dental hygienists and assistants have been reassigned to provide non-dental services to 300 high-risk kupuna and others.
Kalihi Valley residents are among those who have been hit the hardest by COVID-19.
According to the state Health Department, there are at least 36 cases linked to a large cluster in Kalihi.
“We’ve had to rapidly reinvent ourselves,” Oishi said, ”to provide health education and support services that address the factors that influence the health of Kalihi residents to protect them from COVID-19.”
The grant also allows KKV to provide the community with hygiene and household supplies, like toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, along with necessities such as masks, disinfectants and essential goods.
And KKV has repurposed its mobile dental bus to provide public health education to the community.
“Factors such as isolation and anxiety can create stress and affect our overall health and wellbeing,” said Mark Yamakawa, CEO of Hawaii Dental Service.
“We hope Kōkua Kalihi Valley’s pilot project can serve as a good example of community outreach and ingenuity during difficult times. Their work is especially critical now.”