5:16 Clinic gives smiles low-insured families | News

A new dental and medical clinic has opened in Somerset – one that aims to serve uninsured and underinsured patients with non-emergency healthcare needs.

The 5:16 Clinic, located at 810 East Mount Vernon Street, offers general dental care such as cleanings, gum disease treatments, fillings and extractions. It also offers basic health exams and management programs for diseases like high blood pressure, COPD, arthritis and diabetes.

Patients are accepted through application only, with those applications being found on the clinic’s website, www.516clinic.org.

Eligible patients must have at least one member of the household working full time (at least 32 hours a week), and be living at 200 percent or below the U.S. poverty level. For example, in a family of four the total household income must be $56,812 or below.

Patients must also either not have insurance or have insurance that has an extremely high deductible. Medicaid recipients are not eligible, and Medicare recipients are not eligible for medical services, but might qualify for dental services.

Patients’ insurance, if they have any, will not be billed. All services are given free to the patients by licensed professionals who volunteer their time.

This is a non-profit organization, meaning it exists on the charity and generosity of the public. And, according to dentist Dr. Mike Pope, the community has been extremely generous to the clinic.

“Because of the generosity of this community, we’re on solid financial footing. We’re very thankful of that,” Dr. Pope said.

The clinic makes its home at the former office of the late Dr. Danny Ross – a fitting place according to both Pope and Susan Wilson, former community relations director for Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital.

The two said that startup plans for the clinic began before the COVID pandemic, and when the pandemic hit the organization worried that it wouldn’t be able to move forward.

However, Wilson said that that the circumstances ended up being “a blessing in disguise,” because everything lined up for them to be able to use Dr. Ross’s building.

“We really believe this is where we’re supposed to be. It all worked out for the best,” Pope said.

He added, “Dr. Ross was a caring, gentle soul. That’s the best way I can describe him. He was a Godly man. And it’s real neat for people who knew him to see this building come back to life.”

Even getting the building in shape turned out to be easier than expected, said Pope, because many of the people who did the renovations did it either for nothing or at cost.

Even the high-end dental equipment the clinic uses was donated to them from a Louisville-area dental school. That donation was coordinated by Dr. Steve Hieronymus, who serves as a board member for 5:16.

The building has four dental rooms – two for dentists and two for hygienists to work in – as well as a lab and a medical room.

Volunteer coordinator Trish Parker pointed out that all the dentists and doctors who volunteer their time are credentialed and serve in their own practices. Many of those doctors and dentists have brought their own staff with them as volunteers as well.

Dr. Pope noted that everyone involved at the clinic is unpaid and is covered by the clinic’s liability insurance. Non-professional staff must undergo a background check.

Pope said the inspiration for the clinic came several years ago when the medical community hosted a Remote Area Medical (RAM) clinic at Southern Middle School, coordinated by Dr. Hieronymous.

“Several of us that worked there in those clinics … saw that there was an unmet need in our area,” Pope said.

One of the first people to be treated had a “mouthful of cavities,” Pope said, and she had stayed out in the school’s parking lot all night to ensure she was treated.

“That’s somebody who’s desperate,” he said.

The clinic takes its name from Bible scripture Matthew 5:16: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Those involved in the clinic want to help those who have “fallen through the cracks” in terms of medical insurance. As an example, Pope said one of their patients came to them after having suffered a diabetic crisis. They didn’t have regular insurance, and could only get a Medicaid card for one month. “Our goal is to take somebody like that and help them manage their diabetes, to stay healthy to be able to work and just be there for their family. That is a dangerous disease,” he said.

“This is for people who work hard,” Wilson said. “We take really good care of individuals who are on the lower end of income.”

By treating these patients, they are able to have a better smile, and with a better smile they are more confident in their work, Pope said. The dental and medical care also helps them to feel better, which in turn helps them be better in their job.

The patients are pre-screened to check their eligibility, Dr. Pope said. Only Pulaski residents can be served, and patients may be required to show proof of residence by bringing in a utility bill or some other item addressed to them.

“The patients we’ve seen, we have got them in and gotten a treatment plan to get them healthy. We have treated the diseases and gotten them to a healthy state, and now they all have appointments for checkups. So it’s not ‘come in and take a tooth out and you’re on your way.’ We want to get patients healthy.”

Wilson encouraged employers to keep the clinic in mind and consider how it could help their employees. She also encouraged the general public to keep their family and friends in mind.

The clinic currently is open only on Wednesdays from 5:00 to 8:30 p.m. All appointments must be made in advance.

For more information or to fill out an application, visit www.515clinic.org.

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