Since its inception nearly three years ago, the non-profit clinic has constantly added services and even a second location in Bowdon, but it has been a goal since the original Temple facility first opened that in addition to medical and vision services there would be dental services as well.
“I want to commend and honor the selfless work of the Rapha Clinic volunteers and all the doctors and nurses that make this clinic thrive,” State Rep. Dusty Hightower said.
“I also want to note that the Rapha Clinic does not receive any state funds. The Rapha Clinic sustains its operation through the donations of those that are willing to contribute to their cause.”
The dental and oral health clinic will provide pain and infection treatment, oral exams, oral x-rays, extractions and hygienic services. In order to qualify for these services, as well as vision and primary care services, patients must have no insurance and meet low income criteria. All visits are by appointment only.
The clinic also offers individual and family counseling, spiritual guidance and may soon offer healthy diet lifestyle education.
Since opening, the Rapha Clinic has seen nearly 3,000 patients, though it is estimated there are about 19,000 individuals in Carroll County who have no insurance or are underinsured. This is one reason the clinic is constantly seeking donations and volunteer support to allow more services to be offered on multiple days.
“From the beginning, when we were just seeing patients once a week, we realized then we would need more days and times and hours for patients because the numbers are so high,” Executive Director Sue Brockman said. “When you add the surrounding Georgia counties the number goes to more than 30,000 or are underinsured or have no insurance.”
Local dentist Donna Moses is one of the volunteers who has stepped forward to help make the dental clinic a reality. She will mainly focus on extractions, dental examinations and dental cleanings.
“I think in this economy there are people who need emergency dental care and just simply cannot afford it. We just want to help those in true need,” Moses said. “I think we are seeing a certain population right now who isn’t covered by Medicare, Medicaid or any other type of insurance and they are just having a tough time affording the emergency dental care they need.”
Moses explained that there is a clear connection between oral health and systemic health.
“We have so many patients who are having dental pain from chronic infections and the only way they can go about finding treatment is through the emergency room, which is not going to ultimately help them,” she said. “With dental pain and infection, the only way to gain relief is to see a dentist and address the dental problem. Medications alone will not solve the problem. Our emergency rooms are over-filled with dental patients who need the care of a dentist, not a prescription from an emergency room. Our goal is to help patients who simply have no other means of affording necessary emergency dental care.”
Eventually, Brockman explained that it’s a goal of the Rapha Clinic’s board to offer dental services at its Bowdon clinic as well, but only after it runs smoothly in Temple.
“We’re run by volunteers primarily so we’ve got to crawl before we can walk,” Brockman said.
Unlike the medical services offered by Rapha, there will be slight fees for most dental procedures. However, the cost is severely discounted compared to what would be paid at a regular dental office.
“We can add more dental services as we get more money and more volunteer dentists involved,” Brockman said. “The cost for dental equipment and supplies is astronomical.”
The majority of the dental clinic equipment was donated and refurbished, though some of the equipment was purchased using grant monies. Hightower and state Rep. Kevin Cooke have both been large supporters of the Rapha Clinic and have written letters of support to be included in the clinic’s grant applications.
“I am proud to support the Rapha Clinic and their ministry. It is an invaluable resource for our West Georgia community and provides much needed medical and dental services for those in need,” Cooke said.
The Temple Clinic is primarily open on Thursdays for its medical services, but dental services will be offered only on the days the volunteer dentists are available. In Bowdon, medical services are primarily offered on Tuesdays. In both cases, additional days are offered according to the availability of volunteer doctors.
“This clinic was formed when God placed this calling on the heart of Sue Brockman many years ago,” Hightower said. “Because of the hard work of Sue Brockman and many others the Rapha Clinic now has operating facilities in Temple and Bowdon. I commend everyone involved with the clinic for all the time, energy, love and sacrifice they put in to make this program run.”
The next goal of the Rapha Clinic is to add a nurse practitioner to the medical clinic, which will allow the facility to be open additional days and hours. It is expected the nurse practitioner would be a part-time position initially until more funds become available. The clinic may also soon add hearing screenings to its list of services through a partnership with the Georgia Lighthouse Foundation.
“We want to be resourceful because there are a lot of needs in the community,” Brockman said. “When you don’t have access to medical care, you don’t have access to a lot of things that are on the periphery of that service.”
The long-term goal of the Rapha Clinic is to be able to offer full-time service with paid staff, but that would be many years down the road. In the meantime, officials plan to continue to add services and clinic hours as volunteers and funding become available.
“We’d like to see this little baby crawl, walk and then run,” Brockman said. “Yes, we would like to be a full-service medical and dental clinic down the road so that it would be a one-stop shop where you, as a person in need, would have everything at the same location. That would be ideal.”
Appointments and donations for Rapha Clinic can be made by calling the Temple clinic at 770-562-4501 or the Bowdon clinic at 770-258-1115.