New Dental Clinic Aids Homeless Veterans

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Dr. Georgia McDonald, left, chief of dental medicine, consults with homeless Veteran Sandy Broussard, right, before a procedure at the new specialty clinic in New Orleans. (Photo by Kimberly Gearhart)
Dr. Georgia McDonald, left, chief of dental medicine, consults with homeless Veteran Sandy Broussard, right, before a procedure at the new specialty clinic in New Orleans. (Photo by Kimberly Gearhart)

by Kimberly Gearhart

Nearly 137,000 Veterans in the United States are homeless.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) plans to change that.

In November 2009, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki laid out a five-year plan to end homelessness among Veterans. The plan includes aggressive outreach, medical services, education and dental care.

Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System’s (SLVHCS) Health Care for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) program serves over 500 enrolled Veterans. It is estimated that in the Orleans and Jefferson parishes alone, between 1,500 and 2,200 Veterans are homeless. Through outreach and educational efforts, the number of enrolled Veterans continues to expand.

Newly-enrolled homeless Veterans are offered a full array of medical services, including a full dental exam and treatment. Dental services had previously been handled through three small clinics located in Mandeville, Metairie and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“We see about 100 homeless patients in a year, and getting them to those outlying clinics can be problematic,” said Dr. Georgia McDonald, chief of dental medicine for SLVHCS.

In response to that geographic challenge, SLVHCS opened a new specialty care dental service in New Orleans in July. A dentist serves homeless Veterans three days a week at 1601 Perdido Street.

“We’ll be much closer to the other homeless services VA offers and also very near several of the community shelters. We should be able to better serve the Veterans most in need of our help,” McDonald said.

With the new clinic, SLVHCS will also be able to better use a $250,000 homeless dental initiative grant.

“A lot of that money had been spent on fee-basis exams. Now we can do them more affordably in-house. That means we can care for more Veterans,” McDonald explained.

Army Veteran Sandy Broussard, a homeless Veteran enrolled in HCHV, appreciates the new dental clinic location.

“I love coming here to see Dr. McDonald. It’s close to my other appointments and everyone is so good to me,” Broussard said.

For more information about services available to homeless Veterans, visit www.va.gov/homeless or call local Health Care for Homeless Veterans Coordinator Ken Rocky at 985-690-6903.

 

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