KINGSPORT — Friends in Need Health Clinic provides medical and dental care to thousands of working uninsured residents of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.
To serve even more patients throughout the region, the nonprofit organization is offering two new programs for dental and vision care. But as the organization expands, more community support is needed to keep it going strong.
“We’re doing more to treat people that don’t have any affordable alternative, but we need to raise money in order to support it,” said Executive Director Bruce Sites.
SMILE ON 60+
An oral health initiative, SMILE ON 60+ has launched in partnership with 15 safety net dental clinics across the state, including Friends in Need. The program covers many common dental procedures such as cleanings, fillings, extractions and dentures.
Sites said the program will expand Friends in Need’s clientele. Whereas the clinic requires someone in a patient’s family to work at least 20 hours a week, SMILE ON 60+ has no work requirement and will serve uninsured Tennessee residents who are 60 years old or older and have an income below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
“We’ll see them at the clinic, and at the clinic it will be a flat fee of $25 for a visit, and of course on Appalachian Miles for Smiles, all of that is no cost,” Sites said. “So these patients for this new program, we’ll see them at no cost on Appalachian Miles for Smiles.”
Sites added that there are areas in East Tennessee that don’t have dental care. To meet that need, Friends in Need will launch a SMILE ON 60+ mobile dental unit that will travel to areas as far away as east Knoxville. That unit is expected to be in operation early next year, Sites said.
Mobile vision unit
In addition to SMILE ON 60+, Sites said Friends in Need has also launched a mobile vision unit, which is now partially in operation and will be fully up and running by next year. A $50,000 grant from Rotary International funded the equipment for that unit.
Sites said the vision unit will mostly be offered in conjunction with the mobile dental unit. It will serve Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia residents and provide care at no cost.
An ophthalmologist or an optician will perform eye exams for glaucoma, cataracts, nerve damage and other issues, Sites said. Three certified technicians will also be on hand to fit patients for prescription glasses, if needed.
The Lions Club will provide the frames, and Remote Area Medical will help with fitting the lenses. From there, the glasses will be shipped to patients free of charge.
How to help
Sites is inviting the community to An Evening of Fun in Kingsport, a fundraiser for Friends in Need. The business casual event will be held Saturday, Nov. 17 at MeadowView Marriott Conference Resort and Convention Center. Tickets are $100.
A social hour and photo booth will begin at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m. Dinner entertainment will be provided by harpist Martha Painter, followed by a live auction and comedy act featuring Brian Kiley, head monologue writer for “Conan.”
Tickets can be purchased by calling (423) 224-5697, emailing [email protected] or visiting the clinic, located at 1105 W. Stone Drive. For more information, visit www.friendsinneed.org.