Sandra Barry and Rhonda Selvin, residents of the Boothbay Region, and others with connection to the region, Dr. Janet Campbell, Dr. Clarice Yentsch, and Dr. Wallace Smith, volunteer dental consultant; as well as Anne Ritchie of Freeport, joined in a three-year effort to bring quality dentistry to the Florida Keys.
The Waypoint Foundation, whose mission is to celebrate creativity through education, exhibition and collaboration, initiated the effort by forming a collaborative partnership with Florida Keys Area Health and Education Center (FKAHEC), to raise funds to buy a mobile dental clinic (MDC) to provide dental care to children in the Florida Keys who are disadvantaged. This state-of-the-art, two-chair facility will help revolutionize care to families in desperate need of this vital care.
Like many other communities throughout the U.S., the Florida Keys is a mecca that draws tourists from around the world to its sun-drenched beaches and casual lifestyle. The average tourist does not see the great disparity between vacationers and the working-class people with very minimal incomes and for whom acceptable housing is next to impossible and health care including dentistry is marginal.
Rhonda C. Selvin, APRN, FNP-C, QTTP, addressed the Foundation in a foreword to the booklet, “SmileMaker for the Florida Keys,” authored by Wallace Smith and Clarice Yentsch: “Poor dental health is a gateway to physical and mental health breakdown: loss of self-esteem, isolation, malnutrition, obesity, sleep disorders, pain and substance use disorder.”
The Foundation, led by Christine Golia, president, Janet Campbell, secretary, and Michelle Clauson, treasurer, raised the initial funding through personal contributions, a grant from Keys Arts Council, a $50,000 matching grant from Ocean Reef Community Foundation in Key Largo, and grants from Baptist Health of South Florida and the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Officers’ Foundation.
The MDC, bought from Mission Mobile Medical Group of Greensboro, North Carolina arrived in the Keys in early December. Three ribbon-cutting ceremonies were held at elementary schools in Key Largo, Marathon and Key West, Jan. 4-6. A bi-lingual dentist has been hired by AHEC and appointments are being scheduled through the Monroe County schools. Comprehensive dental care began Jan. 10.