Cool Aid Housing Society is looking to raise $25,000 to help cover the cost of dental care for 5,000 vulnerable people throughout the year.
The society hopes to raise the cash by the end of February through community donations to their Everyone Deserves to Smile campaign, which can be made online at coolaid.org/everyone-deserves-to-smile/. Philanthropist Andrew Beckerman plans to match donations up to $25,000.
The society provides dental care at its clinic at 713 Johnson St. – the only such clinic in the region focusing on treatment of housing insecure people and others on a fixed or low income. The service began during Cool Aid’s early days in 1972 and has since offered dental hygiene, fillings, extractions, root canals and dentures to its patients.
“We receive hundreds of calls a day from people who desperately need dental care but don’t have insurance or the money to pay for it,” Kathleen Quast, dental clinic manager for Cool Aid, said in a release. “We are doing the best we can to meet demand, but our waiting list is growing by the day.”
Quast, who worked in private practice before joining Cool Aid six months ago, said the clinic is well known to Victoria’s dental industry. But few members of the general public understand the importance of this service to the thousands of people it serves every year, she added.
Stigma around substance use, mental health challenges, cultural and language barriers, and distrust of the healthcare system can prevent people from seeking the dental care they need until it becomes an emergency.
“I hope others, including local dentists, will join me,” Beckerman said, noting he is fortunate enough to be able to afford his dentist fees, while many Cool Aid clients cannot. Healthy teeth and gums making a huge difference to people’s self-esteem, he added, a factor that makes this service even more important for its clients.
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