Throughout this unprecedented year, countless businesses, restaurants and individuals stepped up to help those financially struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether they offered free dinners to those temporarily out-of-work, or donated PPE to frontline workers, 2020 saw community members transform into heroes thanks to their good deeds.
HealthLink Dental Clinic recently joined the ranks of organizations looking to make life a little easier for those currently in need. The nonprofit, all-volunteer clinic, located at 1775 Street Road, Southampton, is now offering free services to Bucks and Montgomery County residents who are unemployed due to the public health crisis.
Previously, eligible patients over age 18 needed to be employed, yet qualify according to the government’s poverty level, to receive the clinic’s free dental services. Eligible applicants also included low-income veterans.
Earlier this month, HealthLink amended its patient eligibility requirements. Through May 31, it will open its doors to those who were employed in February 2020 (pre-COVID), but have since lost their job during the pandemic.
“Recognizing the economic hardship caused by unemployment locally, the clinic is temporarily revising its long-standing eligibility guidelines that required patients to be employed to now include those unemployed as a result of the pandemic,” said Bela Amado, HealthLink’s clinic director. “This will help ensure that more adults in our community have access to needed oral healthcare.”
Free services include oral examinations, X-rays, dental hygiene treatments, fillings, extractions, root canals, crowns and oral health education programs.
“Our goal has always been to provide high-quality, compassionate, no-cost dental care to those who otherwise cannot afford it,” said HealthLink executive director Raquel Braemer. “2020 has had a tremendous impact on low-income families in Bucks and Montgomery counties. We intend to implement this interim change to help protect local adults’ oral health and, therefore, their overall health and wellbeing.”
According to Braemer, all applicants will still need to meet HealthLink’s other eligibility requirements. They must be 18 or older; have no form of dental insurance; reside in either Bucks or Montgomery County; and live in a household with an annual income at or below 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
All interested adults should complete an application either online or by mail/fax and provide the required documents. The clinic’s eligibility coordinator will review the application and call the patient to schedule their first appointment. HealthLink does not accept walk-ins. In accordance with COVID-19 safety protocols, all patients must have a scheduled appointment to enter the clinic.
This expansion comes on the heels of HealthLink’s successful virtual fundraising event, which netted over $20,000 to continue its no-cost dental care. In 2019, 2,225 local adults received free services. While last year’s expenses were $462,851, the value of those services was $859,472.
“This was a wonderful event in so many ways,” said Jenny Salisbury, the organization’s major gifts officer. “We know the clinic is making a difference for a lot of people in Bucks and Montgomery counties, and it is gratifying to see the community realizes this fact and is willing to support us. Without them, there would be no HealthLink.”
Additionally, HealthLink received a mini-grant of $2,000 from the PA Coalition for Oral Health to support its “Connecting Oral Health and Overall Health” initiative in the two counties. This funding will help the clinic provide free screenings for diabetes and other illnesses that are often linked to oral health.
“The integration of medical and dental health is a trend we are following very closely,” said Helen Hawkey, executive director of the PA Coalition for Oral Health. “The goal is to ‘put the mouth back into the body’ when it comes to healthcare for all Pennsylvanians.”
For more information on HealthLink Dental Clinic and how to become a patient, visit healthlinkdental.org, call 215-364-4247 or follow the clinic on Facebook at @HealthLink1. At this time, HealthLink is welcoming new patients, dental professional volunteers, financial contributors and corporate partners.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org