Following months of planning led by staff at AHEC West, the Western Maryland Mission of Mercy (MOM) free dental clinic was held last weekend at the Allegany County Fairgrounds. More than 300 area residents received treatment during the two-day clinic.
The Mountain Health Alliance (MHA) program at AHEC West took the lead in planning the MOM, with MHA Network Director Catie Wampole and oral-health Community Health Worker Dorian Birkholz spearheading the effort. County United Way was a partner-agency in both planning and conducting the clinic. The MOM organizing committee began in January.
This was the fifth MOM held in Western Maryland over the past eight years, an event that draws volunteer dentists and other oral health professionals from throughout the region to provide desperately needed services to residents who cannot afford dental care. Care provided included cleanings, fillings, tooth extractions and some partial denture repair. The previous four MOMs delivered more than $3 million worth of donated oral health care.
In addition to organizing the MOM clinic, Mountain Health Alliance has advocated for an adult-dental Medicaid benefit in Maryland. Currently the state Medicaid program provides only very limited dental benefits to enrollees over 21.
Legislation passed by the General Assembly earlier this year established a pilot program for adult dental coverage. If the program were expanded statewide to provide regular preventative and restorative oral health care for low-income adults, it would largely eliminate the need for future Mission of Mercy clinics in Maryland.
"The single most important step to improve the oral health - and overall health - of Marylanders is a Medicaid program that covers dental services for adults," Mary Backley, executive director of the Maryland Dental Action Coalition, said of the pilot program.