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Centre Volunteers in Medicine Partner with United Way

by on June 15, 2014 3:45 PM

Though Centre Volunteers in Medicine Executive Director Cheryl White says that America is currently in the grip of “a dental crisis,” the uninsured in Centre County will soon have expanded resources for dental care.

The CVIM announced its new partnership with the Centre County United Way (CCUW) this week, which White says will allow the organization to increase dental care services.

The State College non-profit and free clinic operates with a rotating staff of volunteer physicians and dentists. White says that through their partnership with the United Way, the CVIM will have access to funding to pay for a part-time dentist to regularly work once a week.

CCUW Executive Director Tammy Gentzel says that this announcement comes after a recent Mount Nittany Medical Center report that identified dental care as a primary community health need. Supporting the CVIM’s work shows the United Way’s dedication to ensuring access to health care in the local community, Gentzel says.

“One of the things the drove home for us very graphically is that we’re talking about dental care that has implications for profound medical problems,” Gentzel says. “Things like abscessed teeth, impacted wisdom teeth, tooth loss and gum disease that could quickly progress to more than just an oral health problem.” 

CVIM Events and Marketing Coordinator Sue Forster says that many of the patients seen in the clinic come for emergency care after waiting until their dental problems become too serious to ignore. The clinic sees more than 1,100 patients over the course a year and there is still have a waiting list with over 2,000 names on it. 

White says that with the addition of a new part-time dentist, they will be able to perform an additional 1,000 visits over the course of the coming year.

“I’d love to be able to say that this is going to fix everything,” White says. “This will put a dent into our waiting list. Hopefully, we can continue to grow to the point where we can make that a huge dent.”

White says, at last estimate, the CVIM would require two full-time dentists to eliminate its waiting list. Though the organization is not there yet, White hopes the added exposure from this new partnership will help CVIM grow to a point where hiring full-time dental staff may be feasible.

“In the long term, people will be healthier and not have to worry about rotten teeth or gum disease,” Gentzel says about her hopes for the community. “[This partnership] will help with building a stronger community because its members will be healthier.”

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Michael Martin Garrett is a general assignment reporter for StateCollege.com, a graduate of Penn State and a published poet. He's also a musician who plays bass in an indie rock band.
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