Open Arms Free Clinic to Celebrate 4 Years of Serving Uninsured in Walworth County
More than 150 people are on a waiting list to see a dentist at Open Arms Free Clinic. It's the first free clinic to serve uninsured people in Walworth County. The clinic offers medical and pharmaceutical assistance, but in four years, has grown to also include lab, dental, behavioral health and vision services.
The two dental chairs are the newest additions, but Executive Director, Sara Nichols says they're struggling to keep up with demand.
"The ratio of people in our county, compared to a dentist, is 2,200 to 1," said Nichols. That's a lot higher than the state average, which is 1,600 to 1.
Without Open Arms, patients like Luis Munoz, who has Diabetes, wouldn't be able to afford dental work.
"I have 3 children and my wife. I do work, but it’s only enough to pay the basics, rent, to pay our bills and to buy food. It’s not enough.”
The clinic does not receive any state or federal funding. They rely on grants and donations from the community. Nichols says 90% of the equipment and supplies are donated.
“We at the free clinic are a great recycling program. All of our medical equipment, exam tables, and items that we need for medicine have been donated from hospital systems that are redecorating or remodeling. Dental is the same. When any dentist is retiring, or moving, or upgrading their equipment, they call us first. If we need it, we’ll take it,” said Nichols.
Open Arms served its first dental patient in April 2015. They started with one dentist and now have 7 volunteers, including Dr. Michele Pindyck, who helps with extractions, fillings and general exams. She makes the drive once a week from Mequon to volunteer for 4-5 hours.
"It's gratifying. You're making a difference in someone's life. As small as it may be, but, you make a difference every single day."
In four years, Open Arms Free Clinic has provided care to nearly 2,000 patients and dispensed over a million dollars of life-saving medicine.
"Nobody imagined within four years, we would have all of the services we do right now."
To celebrate another year, Open Arms Free Clinic will host its annual Birthday Gala at the Abbey Resort and Spa in Fontana. CBS 58 Morning News Anchor Kate Chappell will serve as the event emcee. The 4th annual Birthday Gala is Friday, December 2. For ticket information, click here.