Angie White had not been to the dentist for at least two years. As a disabled registered nurse only able to work a few short hours a month, White found dental care to be an expense she could not afford. Her husband, unemployed due to physical disabilities, was also in need of dental care.
That’s when they turned to WellPartners, United Way’s free dental and eye clinic for uninsured children and adults in Richland and Lexington counties.
“We opened WellPartners in February 2016, and in our first year we served about 6,000 individuals,” said United Way of the Midlands President & CEO Sara Fawcett. “In addition to serving so many of our neighbors in need, we’ve also been told by our partners at Lexington Medical Center and Prisma Health that, over that same time period, they saw more than a 50% decrease in unnecessary emergency room visits for dental care. That benefits all of us.”
Thanks to a generous grant from BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation, United Way recently expanded WellPartners’ services with 5,200 square feet of new operating space in the Richland County Health Department.
“We know that there are more than 100,000 uninsured individuals in our six-county footprint, and we sometimes forget about the importance of oral health,” said Fawcett. “But our mouth is a window into the overall health of our body, and we need to take care of ourselves.”
White heard about the clinic and its expansion on the local news, and she and her husband headed straight there the very next day. After verifying their income and residential eligibility, they soon found themselves in a dental chair.
“The films were taken of my teeth structure, and they were thorough in reviewing if there were fillings that needed to be filled. They gave me a total examination,” she said.
WellPartners also gave her husband an exam and a follow-up appointment for a tooth extraction.
“From the receptionist right back to the dentist. Everybody is kind, polite, professional and awesome,” she said. “Truthfully, I feel like I’m going to see a normal dentist when I come into the clinic. I don’t see a difference in the services I’m provided here than at a private, paid dentist.”
Since that time, White continues to visit the clinic for her preventative dental needs, receiving important dental care at no cost thanks to generous donors of United Way of the Midlands and its partners.
“It’s a blessing when you don’t have the funds to go to a private dentist, to know that the community offers something of such a valuable magnitude,” White said. “So my heart is overwhelmed with thanks to you all.”