October 13, 2021
Access to care is becoming a phrase we hear more and more. Now that we have finally connected dental health to whole-body health. Light bulbs are going off in peoples’ heads, realizing that dental care is essential for everyone, not just those blessed with dental benefits.
Lake Area Free Clinic in Waukesha County, Wisconsin, understands the need to provide comprehensive care to those in need.
The Lake Area Free Clinic (LAFC) has been serving uninsured and low-income residents since 2001. In 1999, a group of Emergency Room doctors at Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital documented 1,800 patients who used the ER for their primary care because they had no insurance and could not afford to pay for services. The need for some kind of accessible care was evident.
The LAFC’s mission is to provide high-quality, comprehensive health care to those in need. To expand the comprehensive medical care patients, receive, LAFC opened a 6-chair dental clinic in 2017. With a long waitlist and significant demand for basic, preventative, and acute oral care and education, LAFC hired a full-time dentist and opened a 7th operatory two years later in 2019.
The clinic is like a medical and dental home to patients, providing both acute and chronic care services. The medical side is staffed by less than four full-time equivalent employees and has over 260 volunteers. Since 2001, LAFC volunteers have logged over 110,000 hours of service! Working purely with grants and donations to provide services, they have had over 56,000 medical patient visits over the last 20 years.
The addition of dental services has tripled the LAFC’s operating budget. The Dental Clinic is open Monday through Friday. They have served over 4,000 patients, had more than 18,000 dental visits, and provided services valued at $7.6 million since opening. The clinic accepts low-income uninsured and Medicaid adult patients that other dental providers turn away for an inability to pay. Patients receive exams, hygiene services, fillings, extractions, root canals, crowns, and some dentures.
LAFC collaborates with community partners to avoid overlapping services so that more people can receive care. Local health care system partners robustly support the clinic. ProHealth Care provides laboratory and x-rays services, and Advocate Aurora provides all CT and MRI imaging services at no charge. Patients receive medication free of charge. LAFC also provides insurance enrollment assistance and transitions about 100 people a year out of the clinic and into insurance.
They are always looking for donations and volunteers to continue to serve the residents of their community. Walking through the quaint town of Oconomowoc, you can see flyers for fundraisers and businesses that support the clinic. This is a true community clinic. Those that can give and those that need can receive.
This organization is genuinely bringing together the community to provide care for its residents, from medical care to dental care and even transportation to the clinic. If you’re ever in the area, call for a tour. LAFC has found a way to see the need and be a true difference-maker!
Amanda Hill, RDH, BS has been in the dental industry for over 30 years, she earned her B.S. in Dental Hygiene at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia and has had the opportunity to experience dentistry around the world. Amanda has a love for learning and is obsessed with continuing education in all its many forms. Amanda practices part time clinically and is an industry educator for the nation’s largest dental job board, DentalPost.net. Amanda is a proud Navy spouse and mom of 3.