On Sept. 24, the White Bird Clinic, a local non-profit providing affordable health services and crisis prevention, announced that it would be expanding its medical and dental services in response to a growing community need.
According to Benjamin Brubaker, White Bird’s Volunteer Coordinator, the non-profit has purchased a new building two blocks away from the existing dental clinic. While the move is still roughly a year away, the new location will provide a larger space for existing dental services.
Brubaker is excited about the expansion but recognizes that the real work has only just begun.
“White Bird has just enough resources to get this off the ground,” Brubaker said. “But we’re really going to be looking towards the community for continued support.”
According to Brubaker, White Bird is planning on doing a number of fundraisers in the coming months to help pay for the expansion.
White Bird was founded in 1969 by a small group of medical workers and university graduates to combat the growing number of homeless youth entering Lane County.
According to Kim Freuen, White Bird Dental Program Coordinator, the current location at 1400 Mill St. is no longer big enough to accommodate the 1,992 patients they’ve seen to date.
“Normally, dentists have two chairs they can work out of, and we don’t often have two chairs for every dentist,” Freuen said. “So we’re at a point where we need to expand so we can work at our optimal rate of patients that we could see.”
The dental unit has been operating as an urgent care facility as well as providing preventative care since 1995.
Freuen cites The Affordable Care Act, which has been providing subsidies and expanding Medicaid for low-income people since 2010, as a major influence to increase their availability of dental care.
“Because the state pays for their care, a lot of people have been able to receive dental care for the first time,” Freuen said. “It’s allowed us to do a lot of fillings and restorative care. It’s been really wonderful.”
The new building is roughly two blocks away, on 1415 Pearl St. Brubaker hopes that relocating the dental services will allow the current clinic to be turned into an urgent care facility that will provide patients who lack health insurance an alternative to costly emergency rooms.
The extra space will also allow room for more student internships. Currently, White Bird is able to accommodate only one dental student. Freuen hopes to increase that number within the year.
One such student who began her internship in Nov. 2017 is Cari Goyne. Originally from Arizona, Goyne has since relocated and obtained a position with White Bird as a part-time dental assistant.
“I Just fell in love with the area,” Goyne said. “I loved my time at the clinic during my internship, so when it came time to look for jobs I was happy to land back here.”
Goyne said the most rewarding part of working with White Bird has been building relationships with not only the staff but the diverse patients who utilize White Birds medical services.
“As a student, I saw patients once and they were gone,” Goyne said. “ Now I’m getting to see them multiple times and build a relationship. It’s a lot of fun being able to treat patients within the community where I live and give back to the community.”