Like many other non-profit organizations, Interfaith Dental Clinic is working to meet the challenges posed by COVID-19.
The clinic’s operational costs have increased greatly, said Michelle Russell, development director.
The clinic has two locations: 600 Hill Ave. in Nashville and 210 Robert Rose Dr. in Murfreesboro. The two sites average a combined 150-175 patients per week, Russell said.
“We are doing our part in the community to keep folks with dental emergencies out of the ER and out of pain,” Russell said in an email. “Of course, with the new protocols in place, per-patient costs have increased, the need has increased, but we are not able to see as many patients in one day in order to comply with safety recommendations, and we’ve had to cancel our biggest fundraising events.”
Because of the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), the cost of service per patient shot up from $15 to $75, Russell said.
During the first four months of the pandemic, volunteers were not allowed into the clinics, so services were limited and performed only by staff members, Russell said. Volunteers are back, but more are needed as both clinics have limited staff. Volunteer dental assistants and hygienists are very much in need.
Precautions the clinic is taking include temperature checks and staff and volunteers wearing N95 masks, Russell said. Plastic separator shields have been installed. Only a few patients are allowed inside at one time, so client fee payments have dropped even as more people, such as those out of work, are requesting services. Many people seeking services will go to the emergency room if they cannot get into the clinic, she said.
Interfaith Dental is offering telehealth by appointment, Russell said. A patient may sit in his or her car in the parking lot and use Wi-Fi, or call from home, and do a Facetime conference with a doctor, who can look for swelling and take note of symptoms. Only so much can be handled that way, however.
To make up some of the funding gap, Interfaith Dental on Aug. 26 held its inaugural Day of Giving, a virtual event that provided video tours and testimonials from patients and volunteers, as well as “coffee” with CEO Dr. Rhonda Switzer. People were encouraged to text a donation by typing “EVERYTHING” TO 41444 – that feature continues to be available for donations, Russell said.
While the Day of Giving raised $76,920, Russell said, two of the clinic’s main live fundraisers have been cancelled, which would have raised about two times that amount.
Interfaith Dental is a volunteer-driven non-profit agency that helps vulnerable people achieve and sustain a healthy smile by providing affordable service, Russell said. Last fiscal year, there were 11,425 clinic visits; they provided the market value of $5.7 million worth of dental care and volunteers gave 3,700 hours of service.
The clinic may be able to help seniors with transportation, Russell said.
Call (615) 225-4141 or go to interfaithdentalclinic.com for more information.