PICAYUNE, Miss. (WLOX) – Health is critical to most people’s existence but finding health care can be nonexistent if you can’t afford it.
According to data from the U.S Census Bureau, up to 18% of people under 65 in South Mississippi don’t have health insurance. Due to the lack of health insurance in the area, Manna Ministries is free for those without health insurance to assist others’ needs.
Friday the clinic is packed with people for its free dental extraction day. The highly anticipated day is where a dentist volunteers once a month to remove teeth for patients.
Executive director Jameye Martin said they try to help as many people as possible, especially since serious medical conditions are on the rise in the area.
“We’re going to start doing screening for oral cancer, which is on the uptake. A lot of people in our area use tobacco products and that’s not just smoking. There’s dipping, chewing and that kind of stuff,” said Martin.
However, another reason why it’s packed is that most people in the area rely on the clinic because of a lack of health insurance.
Martin said that most people don’t have any because the only industry in the area is systems like education, health, and city government.
“If you’re not a part of a big corporation then you just can’t afford health insurance, much less dental care as well. The patients are extremely grateful, kind, and always say thank you,” said Martin.
Kristen Caulfield has been a patient of the clinic for more than two years after hearing about it from her husband.
She said she suffers from ulcerative colitis, a condition that causes her to constantly vomit which results in rotting teeth.
Caulfield’s husband is recovering from an accident which makes her the sole provider with little help.
She said without Manna Ministries, she would have been paying more since most of her teeth has to get removed.
“It’s a blessing, it really is. I can’t afford 270 dollars. It’s the best place. I never found a place that’s as good as them. I recommend people here if they don’t have health insurance and needs their teeth pulled,” said Caulfield.
Earlier this month the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation provided a $150,000 grant to Manna Ministries.
Now the clinic can add services like fillings, a denture lab and even a dental hygienist.
Aside from his private practice, Dr. Jason Estep volunteers at the clinic to remove teeth once a month.
He explained the grant to expand services came just in time because decaying teeth can eventually affect overall health.
“We need healthy teeth and gums so that we can speak, talk and chew. We also have connections between diseases in the mouth relating to diseases in our overall health. We like to make sure that not only dentally we’re healthy but that we can help our overall health as well,” said Estep.
Martin said the clinic is excited that 350 of its dental patients will have more care and less pain.
“If the lord puts you in the community, then these are our people to take care of and that’s what we try to offer.”
Manna Ministries said it needs more dental assistants and dentists to volunteer to help lessen its month-long waiting list.
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