UW Today

October 11, 2011

UW volunteers help deliver oral health care at homeless veterans Stand Down

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

Stand Down for Homeless Veterans

Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255

UW Oral Health Collaborative

Members of the UW Oral Health Collaborative helped deliver much-needed care to Seattle-area veterans at Seattle Central Community College on Sept. 15.

About 300 people came to the “Stand Down” event, which was an outreach to homeless veterans. Services included health care and counseling, with the UW Oral Health Collaborative volunteers performing oral health screenings and offering information on follow-up care. Those attending the event could also learn more about disability benefits and other services, and obtain clothing, backpacks and other gear.

Volunteer Patricia Plank performs an oral health screening at the Seattle Stand Down.

Volunteer Patricia Plank performs an oral health screening at the Seattle Stand Down.

Stand Downs for homeless veterans are locally organized in cities and towns nationwide and are modeled after the Stand Downs that took place during the Vietnam War. Soldiers returning from combat were transported to a safe place where they could clean up and change into new uniforms, be served hot meals, enjoy the company of others, and receive routine health, dental  and grooming services.

The recent Stand Down in Seattle was organized by veteran and Seattle University student Sam Barrett, who drew in more than 50 organizations to help. Seattle University and Seattle Central Community College helped sponsor the event.

The UW Oral Health Collaborative, which is an outreach of the School of Dentistrys dental hygiene program, has delivered preventive dentistry services and oral health education to thousands of Washington residents since its inception in 1995. Directed by Norma J. Wells, it partners with local health coalitions, school districts, hospitals, social and health service agencies and other higher education institutions. Wells is a UW associate professor of dental hygiene and director of  Dental Public Health Sciences.

Collaborative members at the stand down included Wells, Patricia Plank and Pat Brown. Plank is  interim secretary of the Washington State Oral Health Coalition. Dental care was delivered in a Medical Teams International mobile unit by volunteer dentist Margarita Koutsombas of the Seattle Central Community College dental hygiene program and Jolene Hartnett, director of the dental hygiene program. Seattle Central Community College students also assisted in the mobile van.