In White County, Georgia there is but one primary care physician for 4,130 residents – ten times the national average of 1 doctor per 435 patients.
In addition, 16 out of every 100 county residents lack health insurance and cannot afford preventative care, or to pay for medical treatment when the need arises.
Fortunately, the Community Helping Hands Clinic (CHHC) is there to provide free or low-cost health care services based on income operating with five volunteer doctors who provide medical assistance to hundreds of patients in need each year.
In addition to preventative care and treatment for illnesses, they also treat chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. At the clinic patients can also receive dental and vision support.
CHHC was founded in 2009 when a group of White County citizens came together to discuss the need for a free clinic to serve the uninsured residents of the area…a clinic that had long been the dream of a prominent local physician.
CHHC provides primary health care to adult patients between the ages of 18 and 65 who cannot have, nor qualify for Medicaid, Peach Care, Medicare or any other form of health care insurance.
“White County has many challenges regarding healthcare, a county which has no hospital, high patient-to-doctor ratio, and above average number of residents without any type of insurance,” states CHHC Executive Director Gene White. “With your help, we can resolve a few of those challenges and continue to serve the needs of our neighbors with quality and compassionate healthcare.”
Americans Helping Americans® is proud to now be partnering with CHHC by providing the clinic with a grant of $5,085 for assistance in treatment costs and other operating expenses.
For the past nearly 15 years Americans Helping Americans® has been helping people throughout Appalachia see, eat and smile better through our eyeglasses and dental programs, as well as providing them with emergency medical assistance for necessary prescriptions in times of extreme need.
For example, in 2006 we provided funding for a denture assistance program serving the residents of Martin County, Kentucky and Mingo County, West Virginia, for which we received dozens of letters with stories and thanks from those who experienced dramatic improvements in their self-confidence and quality of life.
Our emergency medical assistance program acted as a safety net for people of Appalachia who were working hard just to get by and had nothing left over after paying their bills and putting food on the table to cover the costs related to an emergency illness.
For example, one man in West Virginia told us in 2008 that he had gone without teeth for 30 years before Americans Helping Americans® provided him with a set of dentures.
“I couldn’t ever get enough ahead to get a set of false teeth,” he said.
A woman who received a set of dentures, exclaimed “Praise the Lord! I haven’t had a salad for 15 years.”
But not all of the recipients were elderly.
“I had my teeth taken out when I was 19,” one young man who had had gum disease told us.
“I hadn’t smiled since.”
Throughout the years our emergency medical assistance program provided help to those at among the lowest points in their lives – when they didn’t know how they would pay for the medicines they needed to ease their suffering and make them well.
More recently our focus has been on preventing dental disease in children through our Mighty Molars program helping to ensure they will have their own teeth throughout their lifetimes and never need dentures.
This year alone, we plan on providing 4,000 children in Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia with Mighty Molar dental kits which includes six toothbrushes, two tubes of toothpaste and 60 dental floss picks.
In many of the cases, the kits will be distributed by elementary schools which will have dental hygienists give a presentation on the importance of good oral hygiene and instruct them on how to properly brush and floss their teeth.
“Many of our students have told us they do not own a toothbrush,” reported our partner in Beattyville, Kentucky, the Lee County Family Resource Center, located in the town’s elementary school.
Our focus has also shifted to providing adults and seniors with eyeglasses as we have found while states such as Tennessee will provide low-income children with eye exams and prescription glasses, such is not the case for adults.
In Tennessee, working with our partner there, Of One Accord, we found out that while Medicaid covers the cost of an eye exam, it does not cover the cost of a pair of prescription eyeglasses.
We have heard instances where men and women were in jeopardy of losing their jobs because they could not pass the eye exam at the Department of Motor Vehicles without the pair of glasses they could not afford.
Thanks to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans® over the years we were able to help thousands of our fellow Americans return to health, see clearly and eat the foods they love and no longer be shy about having a big, broad smile for everyone they meet.
Poor dental health is not only painful for children, but is also correlated to persistent poverty. As noted in the New York Times – “Experts have long observed that people’s teeth both reflect and reinforce poverty.”
This is why we work so hard to ensure good dental health for children in Appalachia. Living in some of the poorest regions of the country, these children get stuck in a cycle of poverty that is due, in part, to poor dental health.
· Children without access to dental care must often go to the emergency room when decay has gone too far, missing days at school.
· Teens can find challenges entering the workforce, at times hesitant to seek work in a public setting where they feel stigmatized by their discolored or broken teeth.
To address this problem, we started Mighty Molars. With the help of our partners, we are able to distribute toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, and information about proper dental hygiene. This ‘small’ investment pays big dividends for children in Appalachia, by providing better health and a brighter future.
By helping to make ‘mighty molars,’ we hope to help alleviate poverty, one smile at a time.