POCATELLO, Idaho - Today the Portneuf Health Care Foundation donated $25,000 to the Pocatello Free Clinic's dental office in an effort to bite-down on the growing need for dental care around southeast Idaho.
The foundation's president and CEO Shaun Menchaca sees this as an opportunity to invest in not only the clinic, but the community as well.
"Our hope is that the clinic continues to move forward and advance as it increases the capacity for them to care for dental services for those who do not have any access at all," Menchaca said.
The foundation has spent years researching the health needs of the local community and found dental care to be one of the top unmet priorities.
Dental Hygienist and one of the clinic's board members Meg Longwood-House said she has also seen the growing need for dental care as a prevalent problem across southeast Idaho.
"You would be surprised what we would be able to do with this amount of money," Longwood-House said. "We have a few dentists in town that will do dental care for patients, but they need more diagnostic tools so that they are ready to know what the patient needs."
She said the clinic currently has a waiting list of about 112 patients, who will be waiting for anywhere between three-to-six months before they can receive their free dental care.
This grant will help the clinic purchase new and improved equipment so that dentists can work easier, faster, and push patients through at a quicker pace.
Longwood-House said most patients in the region cannot afford to pay for proper dental care so they are willing to wait - even in an emergency situation.
"Of course it won't be an emergency three weeks later because they're in tremendous pain and they probably already had to go to the emergency room."
Clinical director Mindy Hong said for most of their patients, this is their last and only option.
"What people are telling us is that there are no other options in the community for them," Hong said. "They have called around everywhere and we are their last hope."
Hong said the clinic treated 265 dental patients this past year and 734 medical patients. She said the clinic hopes to more than double that amount, turning-out more than 1,200 patients this year alone.