After the community answered the call of a Pasadena-based nonprofit for help in purchasing a mobile dental clinic to continue its mission of providing health services to the homeless veterans and others in need during the pandemic, the specially equipped van is already booked through February, prompting the group to consider adding a second.
Healing California has long provided free dental and vision care services to the less fortunate, with a special emphasis on serving homeless military veterans.
But once the pandemic struck, the organization was no longer able to hold its trademark, large-scale health clinics, where more than 100 patients could be seen each day, according to Healing California Program Director Tom Burley.
Since the level of need has not diminished, the organization decided it had to find a way to continue its work, even through social distancing restrictions, he said.
The group reached out to the public for support in August, and the community quickly came through.
“We got the van and rolled out the first week of September,” said Healing California Board Chair and Founder Linwood Boomer. Boomer is also known for portraying the character Adam Kendall on the TV series “Little House on the Prairie.” He is also the creator of the series “Malcolm in the Middle.” Cast members of “Malcolm in the Middle” held a reunion show in August to benefit the charity.
The reception of the mobile dental clinic was immediate and overwhelming, Boomer said.
“We started getting swamped with calls,” he said. The mobile dental clinics, which are held around the state between one and four times per week, have been consistently filled to capacity.
“We’re booked through February,” Boomer said. “It’s going well enough that we are now exploring getting another one.”
The change from large clinics set up in arrangements reminiscent of field hospitals to using the mobile clinic was “a big shift” for Healing California, Boomer said.
While the group cannot treat as many patients per day, and the cost per patient is higher, the alternative would be to provide no services, according to Boomer. At the most recent clinic, the van served 18 dental patients and 33 vision patients.
But with the state of the pandemic, resuming large-scale clinics “doesn’t seem like it’s realistic or safe or prudent” in the immediate future, he said.
“It’s an exceedingly vulnerable population we’re dealing with,” he said.
The organization continues to depend on donations to keep the mobile clinics operating as they continue to determine whether to pursue a second van, according to Boomer.
More information on Healing California, including a schedule of upcoming clinics and information on how to make a donation, is available online at healingca.org.