New dental services offered at His Hands Free Medical Clinic

Grand opening set for Thursday; clinic offers services to uninsured, underinsured

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Even before Thursday’s grand opening, the new dental service at His Hands Free Medical Clinic has a waiting list.

“There’s so much need in our community,” said Sharon Patten, Executive Director of the clinic at 400 12th St. SE. “It feels like a bottomless bucket.”

More than 60 patients who are uninsured or underinsured have been seen for free dental services since February at two chairs in the clinic’s new site.

Patten said one couple drove from north of Waterloo because they had nowhere nearby to go for help.

“If people want to come here, we’ll be able to assist them,” she said, noting that patients don’t have to live in the Cedar Rapids area to qualify.

Patients in excruciating pain are seen as soon as possible, Patten said, but others already are on a two-month waiting list.

One man who had four teeth missing came to have three pulled.

Patten said in some cases, dental work can mean the difference between getting a job or not.

“If we can fix people’s teeth, it can change their life,” she said.

Dentist Jeffrey Akey helped organize the new service and is serving as the volunteer dental director.

So far, eight dentists are volunteering their time, Patten said, but no regular dental hours have been set.

The clinic, which can use more volunteer dentists, hygienists and dental assistants, offers X-rays, fillings, extractions, cleanings, limited dentures and education.

Adults are served, as well as children who don’t qualify for other services.

St. Luke's Dental Health Center sees infants through high school students on a sliding-fee schedule, based on income and size of family, as well as insured patients and those on state programs. That center, at 855 A Ave. NE, has a two-to-four week wait at this time, with emergencies worked into the schedule.

The new His Hands clinic, which offers medical and chiropractic services, was remodeled with space left open to add dental services.

Patten said a $100,000 donation last fall from Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa helped spur the dental clinic to open sooner than anticipated.

The previous His Hands clinic on Third Avenue SE had to relocate last year to make way for parking for PCI’s forthcoming medical pavilion.

PCI received tax incentives through New Markets Tax Credit funding to finance the medical pavilion, using a portion to donate to His Hands and the Community Health Free Clinic, 947 14th Ave. SE.

Darlene Schmidt, executive director of the Community Health Free Clinic, said that clinic’s dental program also has a lengthy waiting list.

A free dental clinic called the Iowa Mission of Mercy treated 1,550 patients at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids during a two-day session in 2010.

“The need is overwhelming,” said Schmidt, who applauded the new dental services at His Hands clinic. “I think we could have three more free dental clinics in town and not even scratch the surface. There’s a huge, huge dental need.”

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