Homeless Get Smiles Back

By Lindsay Friedrich

         Care Alliance celebrated “Smile Cleveland” on Tuesday, February 4, 2003 at the King-Kennedy Health Center at the Stokes Social Service Mall. This was to officially announce the opening of the two dental clinics that will serve the homeless and low-income community of Cleveland. The King-Kennedy Health Center dental clinic will be utilized by the low-income community. The other dental clinic is located at the Care Alliance Clinic on 2227 Payne Avenue, with the purpose of serving the homeless community of Cleveland.

         Though the grand opening was taking place, the Payne Avenue clinic actually started seeing patients in July 2002, and the King-Kennedy clinic opened in October 2002. The event called “Smile Cleveland” was for the purpose of spreading the word that the services are available and the staff is ready to serve. The opening of these dental clinics follows the mission of Care Alliance, which is to serve the health care needs of the low income and homeless communities of Cleveland.

         The opening of these two clinics mark the end of the absolute lack of dental care for the homeless that has existed in Cleveland for over ten years. With no way to receive dental care, many homeless people were left with no choice but to have infected teeth extracted. Hopefully the horror stories of people left unable to eat due to missing teeth will become a thing of the past.

         “It really is state of the art,” said Linda Somers, the new director of Care Alliance, about the dental facility.          The two dental clinics each have two dental chairs, along with the newest dental technology and equipment. Along with being technologically advanced, the dental clinic has the ability to work hand-in-hand with the medical facility at Care Alliance, offering a very comprehensive level of care to patients. This has proven successful already when treating patients with diabetes since these patients often lose teeth due to complications of their disease. With the two services literally working together, prevention has been quite successful.

         Since the opening of the Payne clinic, the dental director Dr. Leonard Galicki, said over 60 people have received dentures or partials. Dr. Galicki said “I could name five patients off the top of my head who have received jobs due to this service,” citing that many employers will discriminate against people without teeth when hiring. “The majority of patients are so grateful,” Dr. Galicki said. Up to 98 % of the patients seen at both clinics have had cases of Periodontal or gum disease. Before the ability to access dental care, people with these problems would have lost their teeth. However, since they are able to get treatment, they are able to avoid significant tooth loss. Another change the new dental services have brought about is the services available to children. “There are 11 and 12 year old kids who have never been seen by a dentist before,” Dr. Galicki stated, “These children are now able to receive preventative services.”

         Fred Gordon, a formerly homeless man who has received dental care at the clinic attested to the difference these services can make. He spoke about his experience with the Care Alliance dental clinic. He said he would like everyone in America to know just what the program means to people like him, who had no where else to go. “Thank God for the Care Alliance,” Mr. Gordon said tearfully. He said he was proud to have been served there, and grateful for the service he had received.

         The staff of the dental clinic include the dental director Dr. Galicki, the dentist Dr. Nicole Harris, and two dental nurses (as Dr. Galicki does not approve of the title dental assistant since these two women do much more) Monique Goodwyn and Evenlyn Maurer. They all work out of both the King-Kennedy and the Payne clinics.

         Matthew Carroll from the City of Cleveland Health Department presented a proclamation on behalf of Mayor Jane Campbell. The Mayoral Proclamation stated “the grand opening of the center signals a change in the way Cleveland’s inner-city will be serviced when it comes to health care.” It expressed the Mayor’s appreciation of this expansion of services by Care Alliance to the citizens of Cleveland.

         Commissioner Tim McCormack was also present to represent the Board of County Commissioners of Cuyahoga County. The resolution Commissioner McCormack presented was to congratulate and thank Care Alliance for having the courage and dedication to undertake the task of helping the homeless and low-income of Cleveland receive comprehensive health care. He said, “For us to pretend everyone doesn’t have the same needs is intolerable.”

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio published April 2003 Issue 60