On-Site Dental Clinic Will Benefit Thousands in WV’s Northern Panhandle

CHARLESTON, West Virginia (June 30, 2015) — The WV Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (WVAFCC) continues to expand the adult dental services and education it provides, and is opening an on-site dental clinic at Wheeling Health Right in the northern panhandle within the next twelve months. The expansion of services is made possible through a two-year, $100,000 grant from the Highmark Foundation and a grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

In just the past year, 8,539 dental procedures were performed on 5,512 unduplicated patients throughout 13,157 visits at ten free clinics. Thanks to the services of sixteen new volunteer dentists and expanded hours of the registered dental hygienists, 400 new patients were treated at Milan Puskar Health Right in Morgantown and WV Health Right in Charleston.

WVAFCC Executive Director Patricia Rouse Pope declared, “The WVAFCC couldn’t be more pleased to receive the continued support of the Highmark Foundation for a project so very important to WV’s Free Clinics’ mission. First year project results exceeded our expectations. With the upcoming activation of an on-site dental clinic at Wheeling Health Right (WHR), made possible by second year project funding, adult dental patients being treated will experience healthier medical outcomes, higher self-esteem, and job acquisition or retention, as, in many instances, the appearance of good oral health is a condition of employment or keeping jobs. Fixing or preventing oral health problems can forestall other health issues, such as hypertension and heart disease, as well.”

“We know that good dental care is an important part of an individual’s overall health,” said Yvonne Cook, president of the Highmark Foundation. “By providing this grant to the West Virginia Association of Free & Charitable Clinics, we are ensuring they can continue to provide valuable care to an underserved population.”

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 the expansion of our adult dental care 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 encompasses 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 (ACA), 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. Highmark Foundation funding has allowed WVAFCC member clinics to treat or refer these patients to volunteer dentists throughout WV’s Free Clinic network for relief.

About the WV Association of Free & Charitable Clinics:
The WV Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (WVAFCC) was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) on June 18, 2001 to advance and promote access to healthcare for uninsured and medically underserved West Virginians. It exists to advocate for the 10 free clinics geographically dispersed through the Mountain State (serving all 55 counties) and the patients they serve, to secure funding sources necessary to treat the patients served by the free clinics’ programs, and to assist free clinics with transitions and issues that impact all free clinics in West Virginia.

WV’s Free Clinics’ mission is to provide comprehensive patient-centered health care, both medical and dental, to the thousands of state adults, ages 18 and up, who are uninsured or under-insured whose income falls at or below 250% of Federal Poverty Level guidelines. These thresholds are approximately $58,000 for a family of four or $28,000 for an individual.
In FY 2014, the free clinics cared for 37,235 adults, who made 132,886 office visits, and clinics dispensed 214,633 life enhancing and lifesaving medications – all at no charge to the patients. Visit www.wvfreeclinics.org for more information.

About the Highmark Foundation
The Highmark Foundation is a private, charitable organization of Highmark Inc. that supports initiatives and programs aimed at improving community health. The Foundation’s mission is to improve the health, well-being and quality of life for individuals who reside in the communities served by Highmark Inc. The Foundation strives to support evidence-based programs that impact multiple counties and work collaboratively to leverage additional funding to achieve replicable models. For more information, visit www.highmarkfoundation.org.