Homeless now have a place to brush up on dental care

Ramona S. Vossler, Chief Dental Hygienist preps a patient for her appointment at the Kearney Center’s new dental home. Photo by Chambria Gordon


By Chambria Gordon
Outlook writer

Once each week Russell Rainey marks his calendar to be at the Kearney Center. He stays there for seven hours working with patients who have ignored their dental care for years.

Rainey is part of a small pool of dentists who volunteer to treat the homeless. Providing dental care is one of the latest initiatives by Kearney Center founder, Rick Kearney.

Although the service is provided at the Kearney Center, only tenants of The Dwellings, a tiny housing community, and Westgate can participate in the dental program. All three are owned by Kearney, who has made fighting homelessness a life mission.

Rainey, a dental surgeon, is the Kearney Center’s newest addition to the team. He serves on the board of the Kearney Center,  and was one of the first dentists to volunteer for the program.

For many of the clients that Rainey sees, the opportunity to get dental treatment is priceless. Rainey wouldn’t put a price on it; and if he did he said it would average about $3,000 to $5,000.

“I am passionate about oral health having a big effect on your medical health,” Rainey said. “Therefore I chose to volunteer at the center because I know that a lot of homeless people have limited access to a dentist.”

The dental office had been a work in progress for more than six months before it opened to patients who were eager for the service.

“There was a line of people waiting to be checked in, we took care of six people,” said Monique Ellsworth, executive director of Comprehensive Emergency Services Center, Inc.

Taking advantage of the dental service doesn’t require much. Patients have to be 18 or older.

“The purpose of this project is to not only help out low income or homeless patients, but to also create a new dental home for them,” said Ellsworth. “Anyone can provide rapid care but there is never any follow up.”

The demand is so high that patients often have to wait two months for an appointment.

“We have a full-time assistant and hygienist here on staff,” said Rainey. “We function the same as every other dental office. Nothing is different. The quality of care is the same as you would get at a private practice.”

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