Local News: Community Clinic partners with Meharry Dentistry (10/13/20)

Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry has partnered with the free Community Clinic on Dover Street to help provide needy citizens with dental care. Dr. James Tyus and Dorothy Campbell talked in front of the mobile on Wednesday.

T-G Photo by Dawn Hankins

While COVID-19 even slowed down activity in the Community Clinic of Shelbyville and Bedford County this year, one element remained constant, according to executive director Fredia Lusk, and that’s how local people are still in need of teeth.

“People in this community need teeth,” said Lusk. “They can’t afford dental care.”

Lusk said recently how many patients during this current pandemic have no health insurance and as a result, have limited or no access to good oral health care. With local options for free dental services here being relatively zero, she said it has been a community blessing to have Meharry Medical in Nashville step in to assist.

Meharry Dental Clinic staff and students visited the free community clinic on Oct. 6, when adults without teeth were eligible to receive free dentures or partials. State funds from the Tennessee Safety Net program for the uninsured is working out to be a critical source of income, especially during this local crisis.

Moving on toward November, Lusk awaits word from the State of Tennessee if CCSBC’s upcoming dental clinics will be covered under Safety Net. The medical clinic receives some quarterly medical Safety Net funds, those which are earmarked by the state for uninsured citizens, according to Lusk.

“When approved Nov. 5th, [CCSBC] will be first clinic to be reimbursed from Safety Net. The first reimbursement check is February 2021.” We are raising $5,000 for upfront costs until Nov. 1. We need financial support to purchase supplies and paint to renovate suite 203.” (Donations can be made through Paypal http://paypal.me/CCSBC.)

Lusk said having Meharry College provide free dental services to patients is certainly a real blessing for the uninsured of this county. She revealed even more so because of Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry’s reputation in the state for maintaining highly effective education programs.

“This makes the local partnership unique in the state,” said Lusk.

To say that the college has endeared itself to this community, the clinic director said, would be an understatement. She explained how this unique partnership has the potential to eliminate a tremendous amount of disparities through improved access to oral health care.

The free clinic provides emergency extractions, preventive hygienic and restorative dental services-all available to those she referenced as underserved Bedford County adults, who are ages 18 to 64.

Dr. James Tyus, Meharry Dental College professor, said recently he encourages individuals who need teeth to please contact CCSBC. The large Meharry bus was parked at the clinic on Wednesday, where students and Dr. Tyus completed emergency simple dental extractions, preventive hygienic dental services, dental filling and restorative services such as complete dentures.

The pandemic, Lusk said, has resulted in a lot of patients losing their jobs and insurance. The CARES grant did pump $37,000 into the clinic and another $3,000 earmarked for purchasing medical prescriptions.

To celebrate the successes at CCSBC recently, State Sen. Shane Reeves and State Rep. Pat Marsh toured the facility, which is located at 200 Dover St. While there, they heard about some of the stories of people needing medical care, like a man whose blood sugar level had gotten to 400; he lost his job during the pandemic.

“One resident lost his health insurance; he could not pay for his insulin,” Lusk said. “The clinic was able to provide him with his medication from the CARES Act grant approved in September.”

United Methodist Church Global Missions awarded the clinic a grant for nearly $10,000 to provide individuals living in Bedford County with financial assistance for rent and utilities. Patients may apply for funds at the clinic on Tuesdays or Thursday from noon to 6 p.m.

“This grant will assist individuals from being evicted . . . pay for their gas/electric utility bills,” said Lusk. “The grant ends on Dec. 15, 2020 or until funds have been depleted.” (Applications are available in Spanish.)

Also this year, a substantial financial donation was given in the memory of Nancy Hunt Ovrevik to extend clinic hours 8 to 12 hours per week or 36 to 48 hours per month. Please call 684-6772 for an appointment for dental or medical services.

Meharry Medical College’s mission: “Meharry Medical College is an academic health sciences center that exists to improve the health and health care of minority and underserved communities by offering excellent education and training programs in the health sciences. True to its heritage, Meharry places special emphasis on providing opportunities for people of color, individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds and others regardless of race or ethnicity; delivering high quality health services; and conducting research that fosters the elimination of health disparities.”

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