The WV Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (WVAFCC) recently received $100,000 in second year project funding from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation to support the activation of an on-site dental clinic at Wheeling Health Right in West Virginia’s northern panhandle. The funding is part of a two year grant for expansion of adult dental services and education and is partnered with a grant from the Highmark Foundation.
First year grant funding was $50,000. As a result of work incorporated in the first full year project funding to WV’s 10 Free Clinics, 8,539 dental procedures were performed on 5,512 unduplicated patients throughout 13,157 visits. Sixteen additional volunteer dentists were recruited to expand the number of patients treated. With increased hours of the registered dental hygienists (RDH) at two of WV’s Free Clinics, Milan Puskar Health Right in Morgantown and WV Health Right in Charleston, 400 new unduplicated patients were treated or referred throughout 61 hours of the additional volunteer dentists.
The clinics surpassed the projected Year One results for number of free clinic patients becoming better educated on the benefits of good oral health. It was initially anticipated that 10,000 patients would be educated on these benefits. This funding made it possible for 13,157 WV Free Clinic patients to receive valuable adult dental health education. Five thousand seventy-five (5,075) patients were predicted to receive dental treatment through expansion of services. In the end, 5,512 free clinic patients were the benefactors of 8,539 procedures via foundation funding.
Benedum Foundation Program Officer Kim Barber Tieman said, “The Foundation is pleased to be a partner in the provision of this critical oral health program. The free clinics are not only providing needed dental services, but they are also making the connection of good oral health to improved overall health.”
WVAFCC Executive Director Patricia Rouse Pope declared, “The WVAFCC couldn’t be more pleased to receive the continued support of the Benedum Foundation for a project so very important to WV’s Free Clinics’ mission. First year project results exceeded our expectations. Patient benefits, from the upcoming activation of an on-site dental clinic at Wheeling Health Right (WHR) made possible by second year project funding, will include healthier medical outcomes, patient self-esteem, and job acquisition and/or retention for them. Fixing or preventing oral health problems can forestall other health issues, such as hypertension and heart disease, as well.”
WHR Executive Director Kathie Brown stated, “Wheeling Health Right is understandably excited about the impact of this grant funding in our community, not only in relation to what we’ve achieved to-date in adult dental expansion and education, but also to what we will accomplish in the future. With the activation of an on-site dental clinic in the coming months, the impact will be immeasurable for the Northern Panhandle.”
West Virginia’s Free Clinics, whose service area encompass all 55 WV counties, treat patients who are uninsured or underinsured, have no dental insurance, or are Medicaid recipients. Even with the expansion of the Medicaid program in the State of West Virginia and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACC), many critical health care services are not covered under these plans or are only available at a bare minimum. As an example, adult dental services are completely lacking except for acute, painful emergent care. Benedum Foundation funding has allowed