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The number of qualified health professionals practicing in the communities affected by Hurricane Katrina remains low, due to factors such as a lack of housing and limited job prospects for spouses and other family members. The lack of practicing dentists is particularly acute in Mississippi, and AmeriCares has responded by supporting several programs that promote dental health.
In the second half of 2006, AmeriCares funded the purchase of a mobile dental clinic for Coastal Family Health Services (CFHS), which operates out of Biloxi. In 2007, this mobile clinic operated five days a week and treated more then 3,500 people with dental needs, many of whom lacked health insurance. In March of this year, CFHS was able to move the dental clinic into a new permanent space.
“Right after Katrina, we would have been closed, we would not have been able to operate without groups like AmeriCares,” said CFHS Executive Director Joe Dawsey. “That mobile clinic enabled us to provide quality care, operating with a dentist, a hygienist and an assistant in a state-of-the-art facility. Now that we are in permanent space, I will be recruiting a new dentist so we can offer mobile services elsewhere, but finding someone is a big challenge.”
In neighboring Jackson County, a new dental clinic will open this month under the auspices of the Jackson County Civic Action Committee, which has been working in partnership with CFHS. AmeriCares is supporting the construction and equipping of this facility, which will have two dentists who will serve nearly 500 families. The goal of this clinic is to provide all children enrolled in the Jackson County Head Start program with preventive, basic or extensive dental care as well as to increase parental knowledge of oral hygiene and dental health.
These clinics are just two of the many healthcare programs AmeriCares has supported during the past three years.