We love to highlight the work that our Philly Fellows are doing for their host agencies. While no two days are alike, the “Day in the Life” blog post series aims to highlight the types of projects and events that our members work on. This post was written by Chris Capron, who is currently serving as the Child Health Outreach Specialist at Public Citizens for Children and Youth.
From March 22-25, 2016, PCCY coordinated its 13th year of Give Kids A Smile Day. The first Give Kids A Smile Day was held in 2002 in St. Louis, MO, and soon the American Dental Association worked to develop the day into a nationwide program. Around the country, events kick off annually on the first Friday in February with thousands of dentists and volunteers giving their time to provide free dental care to underserved children.
PCCY reached out to dentists and clinics, both from partnerships of previous years and new ones, to coordinate this year’s Smile Day event. Twenty clinics offered free dental care to children during the week of March 21st, which is spring break for most schools in the region. We expanded this year’s event by adding two offices located in southeastern Montgomery County, and all dentists accepted a combination of CHIP or Medicaid so that children with insurance could continue to receive care and those that received help applying for insurance through PCCY could visit these clinics upon being insured.
We recruited volunteers to help handle the logistical work of scheduling almost 600 kids for appointments, utilizing volunteer services from March 7th until the last day of care, March 25th. We had superb volunteers and excellent organizations spreading the word about the event, including several automatic “robo-calls” to every household in the School District of Philadelphia; you can imagine our phones were ringing off the hook! Apart from phone and email campaigns, we also dropped off flyers directly at schools with high need, distributing to schools in West and South Philadelphia. I even spoke on Spanish language internet-radio (Philatinos Radio) to help get the word around that we were always in need of extra Spanish interpreters. In the end, our volunteers pulled through and we made sure everyone that called us about Smile Day received a call back.
Even with almost 600 free dental appointments, the demand for care remains very high. We had over 100 people on a waiting list who were referred to low-cost dental clinics in the area and over 500 total people who reported not having health insurance; those individuals are going to receive assistance from PCCY to apply for public health insurance, like Medical Assistance or CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program). Additionally, nearly 17% of the children who were uninsured as of the end of Smile Day are undocumented; despite our outreach to help enroll every uninsured family, these undocumented children remain ineligible for health insurance. PCCY is dedicated to help enable ALL children to qualify for public health insurance, and you can learn more about that campaign here. The need is great, but so are PCCY’s efforts to ensure access to health and dental care for the region’s children.