Cedar Park–based nonprofit Samaritan Health Ministries is hoping to expand its dental clinic thanks to a $70,439 capital grant from the St. David's Foundation.
In September, a digital X-ray machine and three new operatories replaced decades-old equipment that limited the number of patients seen at the free clinic, Samaritan Health Ministries Executive Director Erika Pratt said. The organization exclusively serves adults and children without medical insurance for a sliding scale fee of $10–$40 per visit based on income and family size.
"I have at least 150 people waiting for an initial dental visit. A lot of them are hurting with dental needs that have to be addressed by a dentist," Pratt said. "What this grant means for us is we will be able to take care of that many more patients who are in dire need of dental services."
Dentist Fred Wilbur, a volunteer at the clinic for several years, said the modern, mobile carts and durable chairs will help improve the quality of each visit.
"These [stations] are decades old, and they were designed and manufactured in a time before the awareness of things like AIDS and Hepatitis C. They are just not properly cleansable," Wilbur said. "Most of the functional parts are just broken, and we were keeping it together the best we could."
With the new equipment, Pratt said Samaritan Health Ministries hopes to entice more dental assistants, dental hygienists and dentists to volunteer, even as little as one day per month. If successful in such recruitment efforts, the nonprofit may open a Friday dental clinic from 9 a.m.–1 p.m.
St. David's Foundation awarded the $70,439 grant in December. As a longtime recipient of operating grants, Samaritan Health Ministries was an obvious choice to receive the equipment grant, St. David's Foundation CEO Earl Maxwell said.
"We designate 20 percent of our grant budget each year for capital items. That usually translates to about four grants per year and the vast majority of those go to our grant partners," Maxwell said. "Because we have had a relationship for over 10 years, when they came to us requesting dental equipment, it was no surprise there was a need. We know and understand dental demands."
Samaritan Health Ministries, 700A W. Whitestone Blvd., Cedar Park, 512-331-5828, www.theshm.org