North East Medical Services Opens Dental and Acupuncture Services in the Richmond to Address Health Care Gap in Medi-Cal Patients
San Francisco, CA—North East Medical Services (NEMS) celebrated the expansion of dental and acupuncture services at its Clement Street Clinic in the Richmond District today to address the severe lack of dental services for Medi-Cal patients, known as Denti-Cal, as well as to increase access to its culturally and linguistically sensitive Integrated Medicine program.
NEMS is one of the largest community health centers in the United States targeting the medically underserved Asian population and a large Medi-Cal patient population. The nonprofit organization focuses on providing culturally diverse and linguistically competent care to its patients with a focus on those who prefer to be served in a language other than English.
NEMS originally opened its Clement Clinic in 2012, offering primary care, lab and pharmacy services, and other administrative services for over a decade. Most of NEMS’s patients qualify for Medi-Cal, but access to dental, acupuncture, and other specialty services is limited on the Westside of the City. Although NEMS offers dental and acupuncture services at some of its other clinics in the Chinatown and Portola neighborhoods, transportation can still present a barrier. The Clement clinic now offers 5 dental chairs and 4 acupuncture rooms. In addition to the 4 new dental chairs in its Sunset District Dental clinic on 19th Avenue and Noriega, the organization can now serve an additional 9,000 patients on the West side, especially those who may not have access to private insurance.
“Creating a one-stop shop for medical care and now dental care while providing culturally competent services and language access strengthens the health of our community,” said San Francisco District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan. “I am pleased to join NEMS for their expansion in providing dental and acupuncture services on Clement Street.”
Medi-Cal patients have traditionally faced barriers in accessing care lack of dental care due to factors such as public knowledge about the program, very few dental practices accepting Denti-Cal, and long travel times to access dental care. For instance, only 36% of dentists statewide accepted Denti-Cal In 2021. These historic barriers have led to shockingly low rates of Medi-Cal eligible adults visiting a dentist. In 2019, only 22% of adults aged 21-34 and 27% of seniors aged 65-74 visited the dentist annually.
According to Dr. Nathan Yang, NEMS’ Dental Director, “We are thrilled to be expanding our dental services to the West side of the city. Within a 10-mile radius of the Richmond district, only a handful of practices that accept Denti-Cal are taking new patients. It is a shame that Medi-Cal patients have such difficulty accessing dental care. Along with two other sites that we are opening in the Sunset, we estimate that our new dental sites on the West side will be able to serve an additional 8,000 patients annually, the majority of whom rely on Denti-Cal.”
Low reimbursement rates for Denti-Cal and arduous paperwork for dentists also contributed to lack of Denti-Cal providers. Denti-Cal reimbursement rates for California dentists ranked among the lowest in the nation; dentists in some states received up to three times the reimbursement than providers in California. Adult coverage was cut in 2009, limiting access to dental care for many Californians. The State restored Denti-Cal for adults in 2018, substantially raising reimbursement rates and streamlining administrative processes, but many dental practices still do not accept the program.
“Oral health contributes to our overall well-being, and I’m excited to see access to dental care improve for my constituents. Our state budget actions in recent years not only restored adult dental benefits for Medi-Cal beneficiaries, but also raised provider reimbursement rates to incentivize more medical professionals to take on patients from the program. This new clinic is an example of how state investments can help local communities fill a need,” said Assembly Budget Chair Phil Ting (D-San Francisco).
“It is absolutely crucial that patients make regular visits to their dentists,” said Dr. Jackie Lam, Medical Director at NEMS. “Over 13 million, or one third, of all Californians rely on Medi-Cal to receive their health care and it’s unfair that many of them cannot easily access a dentist. Bad oral hygiene not only leads to difficulty eating and tooth pain but can also cause brain and heart disease. Oral health is closely tied with your overall health, so I’m very happy that NEMS is expanding dental and acupuncture services on the Westside to address these issues.”
“As a purpose-driven organization, Delta Dental and its Community Care Foundation share a common mission with North East Medical Services to provide quality and equitable care to our communities,” said Kenzie Ferguson, Vice President of Foundation and Corporate Social Responsibility for Delta Dental of California. “At Delta Dental, we know that the gateway to overall health and wellness begins in the mouth. The more we can do to provide people with access to oral health care, the healthier their lives can be. We are honored to support North East Medical Services’ dental clinic expansion so they can further serve low-income patients of all ages in culturally and linguistically appropriate ways.”
Kent Woo, Executive Director of the NICOS Chinese Health Coalition, said, “As the convener of the Chinatown Task Force on Children’s Oral Health, NICOS Chinese Health Coalition congratulates and applauds NEMS for, especially, expanding dental services at its Richmond District site. We are so pleased that NEMS continues to provide much-needed culturally responsive, accessible oral health care to populations in need. This will undoubtedly help reduce the tremendous oral health disparities that our families face.”
Additionally, NEMS is unique in that is also operates a robust Integrative Medicine department, which specializes in acupuncture, chiropractic, and physical therapy. The acupuncture program focuses on using needles, electrical stimulation, and cupping to alleviate pain, promote blood circulation, relax stiff muscles, and relieve stress. Acupuncture is a covered service under most insurance plans, including Medi-Cal.
“Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture services are some of the most popular and exciting services we have at NEMS. Patients always look forward their visits, and we develop strong and long-lasting relationships with them. They trust us to alleviate pain or other issues that they may not have been able to resolve using other mediums, especially in a culturally relevant and holistic way. I’m excited that we’ll be able to serve patients here in the Richmond—the need is great, and I hope more people can get to know how integrative medicine can improve their health and wellbeing,” said Dr. Lili Qiao, Director of Integrative Medicine at NEMS.
Over the years, NEMS has gradually expanded to provide its Integrative Medicine services on the West side of San Francisco as it saw the demand for these services grow. Over the past six years, the organization has expanded acupuncture to nine locations across the Bay Area, with two locations on the West side with this expansion.
North East Medical Services (NEMS) is one of the largest non-profit community health centers in the United States targeting the medically underserved population of the San Francisco Bay Area. NEMS offers comprehensive health care services to a variety of patients, a majority of whom are low-income, access Medicaid, and are limited English proficient. NEMS providers and staff offer linguistically competent and culturally-sensitive services in many languages and dialects other than English, including Cantonese, Mandarin, Toishan, Vietnamese, Burmese, Tagalog, Spanish, and Hindi. NEMS operates 17 clinics and delivery sites in San Francisco, Daly City, and San Jose. For more information, please visit www.nems.org.
About Assemblymember Phil Ting
Phil Ting was elected to the State Assembly in 2012, representing the 19th Assembly District, which spans the Westside of San Francisco, as well as the communities of Broadmoor, Colma, Daly City, San Bruno, and South San Francisco. Ting is focused on economic recovery, while also continuing with progressive policies that protect and expand opportunity for all, equal rights, and environmental preservation. Because of his experience in the financial sector and as the San Francisco Assessor-Recorder, Ting has become a leading voice on California’s finances. He now serves as Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee after having served as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation.
About Supervisor Connie Chan
Connie Chan represents District 1 on the Board of Supervisors, including the Inner Richmond, Central Richmond, Outer Richmond, Lone Mountain, Golden Gate Park, Lincoln Park, University of San Francisco, Sea Cliff, and Presidio Terrace. In February 2023 she was named Chair of the Board of Supervisor Budget Committee. She also serves on the Government Audit and Oversight Committee and as a member of the San Francisco County Transit Authority and the San Francisco Local Agency Formation Commission.
About Delta Dental
The Delta Dental Community Care Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Delta Dental of California, partners with nonprofit organizations across its 15-state and Washington, D.C. enterprise to increase access to quality, affordable oral health care for all, advance oral health literacy and build a representative dental workforce. In 2023, the Community Care Foundation will invest more than $26 million to build caring and resilient communities. In 2022, the Community Care Foundation broadened its philanthropic focus by launching a multi-year program to fund community-based coalitions to address the oral health crisis among older adults in the U.S. It is committed to improving the oral health of one million American seniors by 2030 through innovative community-led, collective action. The Community Care Foundation is proud to support partners such as North East Medical Services in their critical mission of providing affordable, comprehensive, compassionate and quality health care services in a linguistically competent and culturally sensitive manner to improve the health and well-being of its community. The partnership is reflective of Delta Dental’s commitment to building a healthier California and the Community Care Foundation is proud to have invested more than $56,000,000 overall toward creating healthier, brighter smiles in the Golden State.
NICOS was founded in 1985 when five of the largest health care organizations in Chinatown joined to form a representative voice for the Chinese community. Today, NICOS Chinese Health Coalition is a public-private-community partnership of more than 30 health and human service organizations and concerned individuals. NICOS’ membership includes health care agencies, education- and faith-based institutions, housing and community development organizations, and child and youth development agencies.