Over the past two years, Healing California and its army of volunteers has provided free dental and vision services to thousands of people in need, primarily targeting homeless military veterans for a helping hand.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the large-scale clinics the organization traditionally sets up at community health events and veterans’ gatherings became impossible due to social distancing guidelines, said Healing California Program Director Tom Burley.
So if the patients can’t come to them, the organization decided to hit the road and go to the patients, he said.
The group, founded by Linwood Boomer, producer of the popular TV show “Malcolm in the Middle,” is now well over halfway to its goal of raising $250,000 to purchase and maintain a mobile dental van to bring to communities in need, Burley said.
“The coronavirus pandemic makes our traditional group clinic model too risky for our many homeless veteran, elderly and other especially vulnerable patients,” Healing California said in a written statement. “This gently used, fully equipped mobile dental van will let us resume care in a safer, more controlled environment.”
While the van won’t be able to serve the 150 to 200 patients the group can help during a large-scale community event, “It will let us provide up to 20 patients per day with vital dental services in remote, high-need areas that our usual clinics haven’t been able to reach,” the organization said in a written statement.
Representatives said the van is expected to serve an estimated 2,800 patients, proving nearly $1 million in free dental services.
Since it began its work in 2018, Healing California has provided more than 4,600 patients with more than $1.7 million in free dental and vision services.
A “Malcolm in the Middle” reunion show planned for this weekend will benefit Healing California, Burley said.
California is home to the nation’s largest number of homeless military veterans at nearly 11,000, according to U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness data. More than 37,000 veterans experienced homelessness in 2019 nationwide, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
For more information on Healing California, or to make a donation, visit healingca.org.