Corrections dental staff volunteer services in Wichita
Nearly 2,000 patients, most of which lack insurance and rarely receive dental care, were served by the Kansas Mission of Mercy free dental program in Wichita on March 1 and 2. Among the approximately 1,100 volunteers were five specialists employed by Correct Care Solutions (CCS) who provide dental service to the state’s prison population.
Doctors Keith Murray, Fred Cannon, Jose Lopez and Stanley Striet and dental assistant Melissa Taylor converged in Wichita from their CCS assignments around the state to work in the two-day clinic.
“I’ve heard about it for years and wanted to be a part of it, and it just worked out this year,” said Murray, the regional dental director for CCS. “The unmet need for dental care in the public is tremendous, so this only begins to make a dent in it.”
Murray said he has been on dental missions to Honduras in the past, and said the work that is put into making the Kansas Mission of Mercy possible is immense.
“It’s a massive event with an unbelievable amount of logistics and equipment that they set up,” Murray said. “The conditions were a lot more comfortable than on those mission trips, and it was nice to get to help people here at home.”
The tenth annual free clinic drew patients who began lining up Thursday afternoon outside the Kansas Coliseum Pavilions for the clinic that wouldn’t begin until early Friday morning. The doors were opened for hundreds to wait in line through the night. Many hadn’t received care from a dentist in years. Services include cleanings, fillings and extractions for children and adults.
Murray said that the one of the CCS dentists performed oral surgery, while the others did numerous fillings and other services, the cost for which would have run well into the thousands of dollars per day. Based on estimates provided by Mission of Mercy, the value of services provided at the clinic exceed $1 million each year.
“I like to help out when I can, and this program is a great way to meet the needs of people who aren’t getting the care they need,” said Taylor, who also participated in the clinic two years ago.
The Mission of Mercy free dental clinic is held in a different community each year to provide access to people throughout the state. Patients are not asked for insurance, or about their ability to pay, nor are they asked about lifestyle habits, such as drug usage, that contribute to severe dental problems.
“The people really appreciate that they get treated with the utmost care and respect, and receive as excellent dental care as they would in a dentist’s office,” said Taylor.
The Kansas Dental Charitable Foundation, sponsor of the clinic, reported that a total of about 150 dentists, 150 dental hygienists and 175 dental assistants, along with hundreds of volunteers from the community were on hand to participate.
Prior to the 2013 event, 6,546 Kansas Mission of Mercy volunteers had provided 21,317 patients with more than $11 million in dental care, according to the foundation.
Kansas Mission of Mercy co-founder Jon Tilton, a former dentist and current vice president of Delta Dental, told the Wichita Eagle that extractions are typically the most sought-after service. He said patients must first pass a medical and dental screening.
Murray said he and the other CCS employees found their experience at the clinic to be somewhat similar to their every-day work with KDOC offenders.
“The needs seemed pretty similar, actually, to what we see in the prisons,” Murray said. “People were very appreciative of what we could do for them, and it’s that way in the prison too. Most of the people we serve in our jobs can’t get the dental service that we give them out on the street.”