By Michaela Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The Tree of Life free clinic is a step closer to being able to offer some basic dental care.
Work is nearly complete on an addition to the West Main Street clinic, which provides free medical care twice a month to people without Medicare, Medicaid or health insurance.
“We hope to have the dental clinic up and running in February,” said Dr. Joe Bailey, founder and board president for the clinic.
The dental clinic was made possible through a $20,000 grant from the Dorothy D. and George Ruff Foundation, construction professionals who volunteered or discounted their services, and the donation of dental equipment from local dentists.
The monthly dental clinics likely will be held separately from the main clinic days with local dentists volunteering their expertise. Patients will be identified at the regular Tree of Life clinics, and the dental care will be basic, primarily extractions, Bailey said.
“We have a list of 50 (patients) to start with,” Bailey said.
long time coming
In January, the Tree of Life will mark its second anniversary.
Since the clinic opened, it has provided care for 4,500 patients and filled $15,000 prescriptions at no charge with an all-volunteer organization.
“There’s a great need here,” said Registered Nurse Jane Davis, who has volunteered with Tree of Life since the beginning. “It’s very rewarding.”
Patients are coming from a 100-mile radius, some from as far away as Grenada, Holly Springs and Hamilton, Ala.
“We serve more than the local community,” said Tree of Life board member Tillmon Calvert, noting there are no residency requirements for the clinic.
The $100,000 annual budget goes almost entirely to medication. Insulin is one of the most expensive and critical items the clinic is distributing.
“That’s just something you can’t go without,” said pharmacist Bill Austin, a member of the Tree of Life board.
Churches, community groups and individuals have been generous with the Tree of Life, but the clinic will need to develop sustained resources and a broader base of medical volunteers to meet the needs long term.
“I know we’re keeping a lot of people out of the emergency room,” Bailey said. “They’re not having heart attacks, not having strokes, not going into diabetic comas” because they are getting medical care and medications.