By CHARITY DAY and AMY CLARKE
Published Tuesday, May 16, 2017, by The Recorder
Those of us working on the United Way of Franklin County’s Women’s Way Oral Health Initiative enthusiastically read the Recorder’s recent editorial entitled “Meeting the Need for Dental Care.” We strongly support initiatives that increase access to dental care, and we are actively creating opportunities for community members to help make that happen.
Many in our community will connect Women’s Way with two things: It’s Blooming Backpacks and Supper for Six. These are our two signature events held each February and August. Over the past eight years, Women’s Way has collected 3,389 backpacks filled with new school supplies, which are distributed through United Way partner agencies to students who might otherwise begin the school year at a distinct disadvantage. And in the nine years since Supper for Six began, 2,840 recyclable grocery bags filled with all the fixings to make supper for a family of six have been distributed through United Way agencies with pantries and meal-sites, including Community Action’s Center for Self-Reliance and the Franklin County Community Meals Program. This event is always coordinated with February school vacation, so that families receive Supper for Six bags when students are not getting free school breakfast and lunch, and the need for food in the home is greatest.
In 2016, many of us involved with Women’s Way studied data on lack of access to dental care across the state. In response, we began an Oral Health Initiative. Last June, for United Way’s Day of Action we collected toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash and dental floss on the Greenfield Town Common. ”In our first year, Women’s Way assembled over 2,000 oral health care bags and distributed them to the community through United Way partner agencies. This is a wonderful drive that helps our community in a meaningful way,” says Stephanie Gale, director of resource development and community engagement for the United Way of Franklin County. “Local dentists and businesses have been very supportive, contributing both supplies and funds to the Women’s Way Oral Health Initiative.”
This year, on June 17 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Women’s Way will again collect supplies on the Greenfield Town Common. Working with the Community Health Center of Franklin County, we are pleased to expand our outreach by providing free dental care in the parish hall of nearby Second Congregational Church. Jessica Calabrese, director of Dental Health Operations of the Community Health Center of Franklin County says services will include:
• Oral Cancer Screenings
• Dental Exams with X-rays
• Baby’s First Oral Exam
• Fluoride treatments (fluoride varnish for children; silver diamine fluoride for adults with need)
• Oral Hygiene Education
• Registration for all Community Health Center services
A report released by MassHealth in March of 2017 analyzed Greenfield area’s access to oral health services for those covered by MassHealth plans. The report shows that Greenfield has the highest member to provider ratio, at over 15,000 members with only one adult MassHealth provider. The Community Health Center saw only about 3,000 MassHealth members in 2016, only about 20 percent of those eligible for services.
We would love to have your support. Over the next six weeks, please keep your eye on local store fliers and pick up as many toothbrushes, tubes of toothpaste, travel size bottles of mouthwash and containers of dental floss as you can, and drop them off on the Town Common on June 17. Volunteers will be on-site, bagging supplies for immediate distribution through United Way partner agencies.
If you or someone in your family do not have dental insurance, but do have tooth decay that needs attention, please also come to our table on the Town Common June 17, and we will walk over to the church with you to get a free treatment. Every person seen by one of our hygienists or our dentist that day will receive a choice of $5 gift cards, and will be eligible for door prizes, including electric toothbrushes.
Charity Day and Amy Clarke are members of Women’s Way.