Dental professionals and state lawmakers called for a better healthcare system to address the needs of the uninsured in the state. That call came Wednesday during a Capitol press conference announcing next month’s free dental clinic.
The Connecticut Mission of Mercy anticipates helping up to 2,000 children and adults at its third annual event, which will be held in Middletown on March 12 and 13.
“(Connecticut Mission of Mercy) is trying to fill that void in the interim while the government and business and healthcare advocates and the profession look to a more permanent solution. Because the Mission of Mercy is not really a solution for access to care,” Dr. Robert Schreibman, co-chair of Connecticut Mission of Mercy, said.
Nearly 1,500 individuals, including hygienists, dentists and oral surgeons will volunteer at the clinic and provide general health screenings, dental screenings, cleanings and fillings as well as x-rays, oral surgery, root canals and tooth removal to patients of all ages on a first-come first-serve basis.
Dr. Michael Perl said there are no eligibility or age requirements for anyone seeking to attend the clinic. “Anybody that comes to the door will get free dental care,” he said.
In addition to treating children, the clinic will offer on-site child care while parents receive treatment.
Last year in New Haven, 1,800 patients received free dental care. In 2008, 1,200 people were treated at the first Connecticut Mission of Mercy free clinic in Tolland.
Senate President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said he attended the previous two free clinics. “What you find is that there are hundreds, if not thousands of individuals in Connecticut, the majority of whom are adults and also whom are employed. They have jobs but they do not have dental insurance.”
Dr. Bruce Tandy, president of the Connecticut State Dental Association, said that many of the patients they have seen so far at the free clinics have been adults. He pointed out that Connecticut recently received an ‘A’ grade from the Pew Children’s Dental Campaign, a national program of the Pew Charitable Trusts, for improving dental health and access to dental care.
However, House Speaker Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, said that according to the Connecticut State Dental Association, more than one million Connecticut residents are without adequate dental insurance. “As great as it is serving 2,000, there is still a lot more that needs to be done,” he said.
With programs like the Husky Plan and school-based health clinics “really taking an active role in promoting dental care for youngsters and we need to do that for adults as well. We need to figure out ways that adults can afford adequate healthcare,” Donovan said.
State Rep. Matthew Lesser, D-Middletown, is anticipating many people from all over Connecticut visiting his district for the free dental clinic. He said that he is aware that there is a need in every community in the state. “We need to understand that this is a basic need that is not currently being met.”
Carol Dingeldey, executive director of Connecticut State Dental Association, said “the Connecticut Mission of Mercy serves a great purpose for those in pain and those who would otherwise not be able to receive dental care.” Dingelday added though that “we must keep in mind that Mission of Mercy is not a substitute for a health system that works in our state.”
The Connecticut Mission of Mercy free dental clinic will be held 8 a.m. Friday and Saturday, March 12-13, at the Aetna Building in Middletown. For more information, go to the Connecticut State Dental Association’s Web site or call them at (860)378-1800.