PennWell Dental Community
A little late in the week, but wanted to repost this blog post from a few years ago, because in all honesty, nothing has changed since then, except we have more people in need....
Well, it's hump day, and I'm busy trying to secure grant funds for a free dental clinic, in fact, the only free dental clinic in the county. This clinic serves the homeless, and recently added the same services for the uninsured, working-poor of the community through a collaboration with our local 'Project Access' initiative. Project Access initiatives are generally begun to gather the medical community as a whole to address the needs of the uninsured, and eventually, they expand to the dentists of the community. Here's the thing:
Our clinic is unique. It is run, along with a free medical clinic, almost entirely by volunteer clinicians, and auxiliary and administrative personnel. The clinic has never had difficulty recruiting the volunteerism of the medical community, but has struggled in securing the volunteerism from the local dental community. In talking to directors of many clinics around the country, I hear the same frustration centered around the same uphill battle in many of them.
As dental professionals, we understand the Oral Systemic Link and are most capable of providing the necessary education, preventive care, and appropriate treatment once oral disease has begun. We know the risks and the consequences for those deferring dental care because they simply can't afford it, and it goes far beyond a patients cosmetic appearance. Why, thus, is our dental community not stepping up as the medical community has?
With a Project Access initiative, the referrals are evenly dispersed and the care is tracked for the provider for tax purposes. The work is all done for the practice, including income verification to insure patients aren't abusing the access to free care, and referrals to specialists as needed. The staff no longer has to take on the additional task of coordinating care, or deciding who deserves your care, philanthropically. The dentists don't even need to leave their offices to volunteer in the clinic, as the uninsured, working patient can generally come to their private practice - perhaps he or she is already your patient? Often, this is the case. Most of the homeless in our area are in the city, and generally utilize our free clinic in the city, with transportation arranged for them when the care of a specialist outside the city is needed.
So, it's hump day in the only free dental clinic in town. It's been a rough week for us all, already, trying to keep up with the needs of so many, and the numbers are only growing. I beg you to help make the rest of our week easier - this week, and every week after, by offering to join the effort to provide care to those desperately in need. If there is a Project Access initiative in your town, I ask you to communicate with them your willingness to join the effort. If there is no such initiative, I ask that you contact your local clinic, and volunteer just (1) 4-hour block of time per month, OR, contact me to inquire about how to get a Project Access initiative going in your area. You won't regret it. I can promise you that. There are no words for the satisfaction received from helping those truly in need. As health care professionals, this is the perfect means by which each and every one of you can "Choose a charitable service you believe in. Donate and/or Volunteer. In a blink, it could be you they serve."