Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

June 26, 2013

Seeking care

Response to RAM Clinic is proof it was meeting a need

The Independent

ASHLAND — The RAM Clinic at Greenup County High School was crammed with people seeking help, leaving no doubt the two-day Remote Area Medical clinic sponsored by the Greenup County Health Department, Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital and a host of local businesses and individuals was meeting a real need in this region.

The more than $40,000 the organizing clinic raised to pay for the clinic was money well spent, and we commend all the people who made it possible, including 125 dentistry students, 36  professional dentists and scores of hygienists and other professionals.

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 six in 10 Kentuckians had visited a dentist within the last year.

“We see a lot of really bad situations,” Moorhead said. “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.”

A total of 800 dental patients were expected over the two days, according Moorhead. “We realize the need. There are people who just can’t afford us and this is our way of giving back,” he said.

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.” 

Transformed into a makeshift health center, the GCHS gymnasium included 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 lining 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.

The crowd did not let up during the two days of the RAM clinic.

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.” 

Dental care and eye care are often neglected by lower income people because they are not covered by insurance and because they are not deemed to be life-threatening. But a tooth ache is an infection that can lead to much more serious health problems and poor eyesight can hamper job performance and one’s ability to drive and to read.

Cassie Mace, a Greenup County Health Department nurse and RAM event coordinator, said there were almost as many volunteers as patients throughout the weekend. “There are a lot of support services,” she said.

During the two days, the RAM clinic provided an estimated $450,000 worth of medical services. While the positive impact of the clinic on the lives of people who received care that they otherwise could not have afford was tremendous, the need still exists. In fact, plans are already under way for the next RAM Clinic in northeastern Kentucky and when it happens, we expect the response from people needing medical care will be just as great as it was last weekend at GCHS.