Hundreds of volunteers and patients descended on Greenup County High School this weekend for the two-day Remote Area Medical or RAM clinic.
Transformed into a makeshift health center, the gymnasium hosting an 80 chair dental clinic, classrooms became exam rooms and the hallways a series of waiting rooms. Individuals traveled from the surrounding areas as well as from as from states as far as New York and Iowa to receive the free dental, health and eye care provided by the clinic.
Many arrived Friday afternoon or early evening to get in line, waiting in their cars through the night and queuing up early Saturday morning for a long day of waiting. When volunteers began handing out numbers just after 2 a.m. there were more than 160 already lined up. The doors opened at 6 a.m. and by noon about 500 patients had come through, according to volunteers that numbered in the hundreds too.
Denvil and Lucille Adkins, of Grayson, waited about 12 hours to get glasses on Saturday but described their experience as “great.” They planned to return on Sunday to get dental care, because their medical insurance does not provide either.
“I’ve been putting off getting glasses for a long time,” said Denvil Adkins. Lucille had too. “My insurance paid for the exam but it didn’t pay for the glasses or the lenses so I didn’t get them,” she said. Lucille, who is disabled, used to be a nursing assistant. She received care from a RAM clinic before when one was held in Pikeville and knew the quality of care was worth the wait to get glasses she needed. “More people should come out,” she said.
Tiny Glacy, of Wurtland, was waiting to have her eyes examined too. “I have insurance but everything isn’t covered. (Glasses) They are expensive,” she said.
“It is a good thing, especially for our area,” she said of the clinic. “I think it’s wonderful. I can’t believe there wasn’t a bigger turnout than there was really. I’d like to see more of this in the future.”
Glacy said she saw more individuals from surrounding areas than local, from Ohio, West Virginia, and other eastern Kentucky counties.
Tiffany Shepherd, of Ashland, is a cosmetoloogy student and has no health insurance. “I found out about this clinic through the internet and I came to get some dental work done and I’m going to try to get some glasses,” she said.
“I’ve been here since 11:30 p.m. last night. It’s worth it. You have to do what you have to do when you don’t have insurance to fulfill your needs,” she said, just after 12:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. “I’m trying to find a job that has insurance benefits. I’m working on that,” she added.
Shepherd called the clinic “amazing.” “It is just a blessing. It’s a blessing, to help us with vision, dental and medical. We don’t get that help around here,” she said.
Mike Thomas, of Flatwoods, was waiting to get a filling done. Thomas pulled into the parking lot at 3:05 a.m. and got his first number for treatment.
“Where I work at now, the insurance isn’t the best and I already owe enough in medical bills as it is,” he said. Without the RAM clinic, Thomas said he “probably would have waited” to get the care he needed, “until I had better insurance.”
A man sitting next to Thomas in line, who declined to give his name, had driven 10 hours from Illinois to attend the clinic. “I had a tooth that had been a problem in my mouth for years and it is already fixed,” he said.
“I’m here now for a cleaning. The students of the dentistry school have been totally professional, good people. Their instructors are always hovering over them, making sure everything is done right. Love it,” he added.
The need for dental care is large and most patients that visit the RAM clinic are there for it, according to Dr. William J. Moorhead, the president of Kentucky Dental Association, and Flemingsburg dentist.
“Dentistry is not included in medicaid. There are a lot of people who don’t have dental insurance and of the gap between medicaid and people who can afford dentistry, there is that clumsy hole of people who just can’t afford it,” he said.
According to the Kentucky Health Foundation, there are more than 1.7 million Kentucky adults who lack dental insurance. A recent Kentucky Health Issues Poll found that six in 10 Kentuckians had visited a dentist within the last year.
“We see a lot of really bad situations. People who need full-mouth extractions. They have been sipping pop for years. Meth mouth. Periodontal disease, where the teeth are loose and can’t be saved anymore. There are some people who are having full arch extractions. Some of them will come back tomorrow and do the other half even. There are people having filling and cleanings too,” he said.
A total of 800 dental patients were expected over the two days, according Moorhead. They were being treated by 205 volunteers including 125 dentistry students, 36 professional dentists and scores of hygienists and other professionals. “We realize the need. There are people who just can’t afford us and this is our way of giving back,” he said.
According to Cassie Mace, a Greenup County Health Department nurse and the RAM event coordinator, there were almost as many volunteers as patients throughout the weekend. “There are a lot of support services,” she said.
For example, Dawn Avery, a volunteer from the University of Louisville dental school, was scrubbing and flash sterilizing dental tools. She started at 7 a.m. and would be doing it throughout the day, she said.
Mace said patients have been extremely grateful for the services. “They say it is a blessing, that we are improving their lives. They can’t eat, they can’t get a job because of their teeth. They can’t see to drive, so getting their teeth fixed, getting eye glasses, getting some medical testing, it’s things they couldn’t afford,” she said.
Throughout the weekend the clinic was expected to provide more than $450,000 in free services.
The RAM clinic was sponsored by the Greenup County Health Department, Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital and a host of local businesses and individuals. The organizing committee raised more than $40,000 to pay for the clinic. RAM Kentucky was founded in December 2008. It is a branch of RAM International, which was founded in 1985 by Stan Brock, the former co-star of “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.”
CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at (606) 326-2653 or by firstname.lastname@example.org.