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Clarion Area Grad Provides Missing Link for Dental Health Care Throughout Pennsylvania

Thursday, May 25, 2023 @ 12:05 AM

Posted by Ron Wilshire

Link group (1)CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Lisa Tovcimak, a 1991 Clarion Area High School graduate, has worked in the dental field for 30 years. After COVID-19 hit, she founded Link the Valley, a nonprofit organization in Farrell, to provide the community with low-cost dental care and other health resources.

(Pictured above: Lisa Tovcimak, Gary Calleja, VP Business Relationship Manager, and Ben Prescott, Farrell City Manager, with a check for $10,000.00.)

Citizens Bank Financial this year presented a small business award to Link the Valley for $10,000.00 for making a positive contribution to its community.

The link provides no out-of-pocket cost preventative dental services and tobacco counseling all over Pennsylvania.

Lisa started the organization two years ago with her passion for including everyone in proper dental care. Link the Valley travels to various facilities like homeless shelters, clinics, group homes, and more to provide affordable, reliable dental resources.

“I am a public health dental hygienist, a tobacco treatment specialist, and a trained orofacial myofunctional therapist,” Tovcimak explained. “I own a mobile dental hygiene practice. I travel to homeless shelters, residential treatment facilities, group homes, daycares, nursing homes, and many other locations needing dental and tobacco services.

“I love working with all ages, especially kids; I start seeing kids at six months old. Another passion is special needs individuals, and I have a lot of experience working with this population; it is where my heart is. I also provide tobacco cessation counseling and nutritional counseling.”

Lisa graduated from Clarion Area in 1991, where she was secretary of the Student Senate and ran track, but an interest in the dental field had not yet surfaced.

“My uncle was a dentist, but I was thinking of majoring in interior design, decorating, or as a physical therapist in college. I enrolled in physical therapy but saw a pamphlet about dentistry and thought it was interesting. My aunt suggested (that I) work in my uncle’s dentist’s office during the summer. From day one, I just loved and worked there for a year. Next, I enrolled in Pitt’s dental program. Next year will be the 30th anniversary of my graduation from Pitt.”

Like a nurse practitioner, Lisa is a dental hygiene practitioner who can work without a dentist. That process started in 2007 when a child in Washington, DC, died from a dental infection, and the states got together and figured out what the problem was because he had Medicaid insurance, and it would have been a $70 visit that the insurance would have paid.

“The mom wouldn’t have had to pay anything, but she was a single mom with no transportation, and the closest provider that accepted her Medicaid was an hour and a half away,” Lisa said. “She just couldn’t get there, and after that, licensing was developed. Licensed professionals were encouraged to visit facilities.”

There’s a lack of care in rural health facilities, schools, and homeless shelters, according to Lisa.

“We’re just trying to connect the dots and close some of these gaps in care. We come to Clarion, Titusville, Chambersburg, and Erie. We are usually on the road four days a week. On Tuesdays, I’m at a local pediatric office, and then I have a brick-and-mortar office, so I do the pediatrician during the day, and then in the evening, we schedule patients at my office.”

Another local connection for the operation is Office Manager Angie Rhoads Smith who graduated from Keystone.

angie Link

“I met her mom when I worked for Doctor Kevin Moore in Clarion and fixed up Angie with her future husband. They got married, and then she moved to Hermitage near me. I knew she lost her job during COVID, and I told her what I was starting and asked if she would think about coming on board.”

Link the Valley is in Clarion on Thursday when it visits ARC in Clarion County.

“We go into group homes, suboxone clinics, women’s, men’s, and preschools. We do their full X-rays, exams, and cleanings, and then if they are smokers or substance users, we do counseling.

“We provide whatever they need. If they need extractions or something, we get them to the right place and where they need to be, whether it’s an oral surgeon, sedation for kids, or a pediatric dentist.”

Primary Health Network is a significant referral source for Link the Valley and is with them one day a week.

For more information, call Angie at 724-977-4488 or email [email protected].

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