Yolanda Townsend came to see the dentist at Covenant Community Care’s dental clinic for the first time on Saturday, October 24. Three days later she walked out of the University Detroit Mercy Dental School with a free root canal provided by a volunteer endodontist. Her story is just one of 2,100 patients who have sought out dental care at Covenant Community Care since the young community health center in Southwest Detroit opened its dental clinic last fall thanks to the generous support of the McGregor Fund, the Carls Foundation, the City Light Foundation, Covenant Ministries of Benevolence and the Community Foundation of Southeastern Michigan.
Yolanda and others like her found in Covenant Community Care’s staff of dentists, assistants and administrators a group of people who served her with diligence and care as they carved out a niche as one of Detroit’s most affordable and accessible places to receive dental care. Under the direction of Dr. Tom Storen, a retired dentist and former U.S. Marine, the dentists, Dr. Lynn Eickholt and Dr. Kay Price, lead the effort to meet every need, whether an emergency, a filling, a denture, crown or cleaning. Dr. Eickholt, a graduate of the University Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry and a National Health Service Corps Scholar, and Dr. Price, a graduate of the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, have turned this three chair clinic into a beehive of activity 6 days a week 52 weeks per year. Keeping them busy is Clinic Manager, Maria Aloyo, who puts her bi-lingual Spanish/English skills to great use serving a mix of patients —black, white and Latino, many of whom speak only Spanish.
As you come into Covenant Community Care’s clinic at 559 West Grand Boulevard, you are greeted by a beautiful bronze cross donated by one of the founding churches, Faith Covenant Church in Farmington, Michigan. The cross helps to focus the staff on their mission to show and share God’s love through providing integrated, affordable and quality health care to those who need it most.
In this case, integrated health care is experienced as you pass through the first floor medical clinic, with doctors and nurses curing illnesses and treating diseases under Medical Director Dr. Lydia Best, on your way to the second floor dental clinic, which shares space with a small counseling office where Psychologist Dr. Tim Hogan leads a team in caring for the mental health needs of patients. It is in this rich integrated care setting that Covenant’s dental clinic took root in the fall of 2008 after years of fundraising and renovations. Even after all the dental chairs were in place, it took the special talents of Doctors Storen, Eickholt and Price to breathe life into the empty rooms.
The clinic’s first few weeks were slow. But as Ms. Aloyo began to trumpet the talents of the dentists, patients came to see how far their money could stretch under Covenant’s generous sliding fee scale. Word of mouth spread throughout the spring and by the time Covenant cooperated with the University of Detroit Mercy Dental School on a “Free Braces” screening day last June which provided dental exams and cleanings to nearly 500 and provided free braces to 60 low-income children and adolescents, the clinic’s reputation had blossomed and the steady stream of patients making their way upstairs became a daily event. Dr. Bill Krieg and his team of volunteer orthodontists have added to the clinic tremendously by making affordable braces available to all low-income Covenant patients in need of braces.
Yolanda Thompson came to the clinic through another exciting program – “Save A Tooth Day”. Covenant hosted this day on October 24 in an effort to identify 50 people in need of free root canals which were generously provided by volunteer endodontists from the Michigan Association of Endodontists.
Together with 49 others, Ms. Thompson discovered firsthand how great a treasure the clinic that Dr. Storen built up through the gifts and talents of Dr. Eickholt, Dr. Price and Ms. Aloyo has become for the people of Southwest Detroit. And all this in one short year.
But as the State of Michigan has cut dental benefits for adults out of the Medicaid program, the need for affordable dental care is growing. In the coming year, Covenant’s dental clinic will expand its effort by adding preventative dental programs in local schools and by creating a new seven-chair dental clinic on Michigan Avenue nearby the existing three-chair West Grand Boulevard clinic.
If the past year is any indication, many more people will receive excellent dental care from Covenant dentists in the years to come. For those who came to the empty second floor clinic just one short year ago, the growth and healing happening today and into the future is nothing short of a miracle.