The dental programme is so popular that would-be patients queue up outside in their cars overnight before the clinic begins, hoping to get one of the coveted 2000 available places up for grabs.
The need is great since so many Connecticut residents are unable to afford dental care and do not have insurance. The goal of the project is for there no longer to be a need for the service, says Michael Perl, Mission of Mercy’s co-chair.
But as the years progress, there are patients who use the clinic as a regular dental service. The clinics have helped to raise awareness of the need for better access to dental care, but organisers are less optimistic of achieving their biggest goal: eliminating the need for the free service.
In fact, the need for the service has increased. In Connecticut, an estimated 600,000 to 1 million people do not have access to dental care and many people who get health coverage through work don’t get dental insurance. Those who are fortunate to have dental insurance, can still feel up against it, as many insurance policies cap coverage limits to about $1,500.
The need is so great in the northeastern American state that many dentists worry that the rates will increase and the need for free dental care services will be greater by 2013. “It really isn’t getting better, not that I can see,” Perl said.
But the thousands of patients waiting 12 hours and longer to receive the free dental care are extremely grateful for the effort and services provided by Mission of Mercy. It just leaves one question: Is this really the best American can do for its people? This type of volunteering doesn’t solve the problem, Perl said, but it does raise awareness.