Wellness clinic in Benton Harbor provides free dental services, eye exams
Lake Region and Michigan — More than 100 volunteers, including eight dentists and an eye doctor, spent Sunday, Aug. 19, treating almost 200 people at no charge during a Community Health and Wellness clinic at Benton Harbor High School.
Many of the patients haven’t seen a dentist or an eye doctor for years because they can’t afford the cost, organizers said.
“The main thrust is health overall, but people mainly come for the dental services because they’re so expensive,” said Dr. Lynn Gray, a family doctor at Lakeland Medical Center in St. Joseph.
The event was sponsored by Harbor of Hope and Highland, both Seventh-day Adventist churches in Benton Harbor. Even though the event is sponsored by Seventh-day Adventists, participants don’t have to belong to that church in order to volunteer or receive treatment.
Gray said Dr. Kenneth May, an instructor at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry in Ann Arbor, brought with him several dental and hygienist students to help out.
“They gave up a Sunday to come help our community,” he said.
It was one of 20 free clinics coordinated every year by the Lake Union Adventist Community Health Initiative Department, which serves four states — Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.
Randy Griffin, director of the initiative, said his department provides the equipment and partners with the local Adventist churches that provide the volunteers.
“I’m a semi-retired dentist who has taken this on in my early retirement,” said Griffin, who was a dentist in Cicero, Ind.
He said each clinic requires a lot of planning.
“We started working on this about a year ago — planning, getting information, recruiting, setting up, all the things that we need. And here we are today, making it happen,” he said.
Even though the purpose is to provide free basic dental and vision care to people who otherwise couldn’t afford it, Gray said they treat everybody and don’t ask if they have insurance.
He said the only cost is if a person wants prescription glasses. He said they are working with an optical company that will make glasses for $10.
The free dental services included cleanings, fillings and extractions, along with the exam and X-rays needed to diagnose any problems.
In addition, a health expo was set up in the high school’s gymnasium to teach people how to live healthier lives.
Cathy Coleman, a registered nurse at Lakeland Hospital in Niles, was the volunteer coordinator from Harbor of Hope who helped make it happen. She said not all of the clinics include a health expo, but she felt it was important.
She said volunteers at one booth were educating people on how to avoid falls. A chiropractor was doing screenings at another booth.
Other booths taught participants about nutrition, heart disease, mental health and substance abuse.
This is the second time Benton Harbor has hosted a Community Health and Wellness clinic. The first one was two years ago, Gray said. He said they hope to make it an annual event.
Photo credit: Louise Wrege
Photo 1: More than 100 people received free dental services and eye exams during the Harbor of Health Community of Health and Wellness clinic at Benton Harbor High School. The clinic was sponsored by Harbor of Hope and Highland churches.
Photo 2: Dr. Matthew Gray, a dentist in Royal Oak, checks the teeth of Shannon Pryor of Benton Harbor during the Harbor of Health Community of Health and Wellness clinic at Benton Harbor High School. More than 100 people received free dental services and eye exams.
Cover Photo: Dr. Joshua Byers from Flood’s Vision Center in St. Joseph checks the eyes of Catrena Williams of Benton Township during the Harbor of Health Community of Health and Wellness clinic.
Printed with permission from The Herald-PalladiumT