Northampton, MA – February 22, 2020 – Welcome Home Northampton, a partnership between the City of Northampton, Catholic Charities, and area non-profits, is now funding refugees’ dental needs in addition to housing.
Recent dental treatment included performing a root canal and saving the tooth of a 24-year old Guatemalan woman. Insurance would only have paid for the tooth being removed. The dentists involved, including Eric Shapiro, an endodontist from Western Mass Endodontics, knew that saving the tooth was the far better option, both functionally and cosmetically. “The entire team at Western Mass Endodontics is happy to do our part in helping the underserved in our community.”
Welcome Home Northampton worked with local dentists to craft guidelines for dental assistance, which are now available on their website. Dental representatives who helped craft the guidelines include Drs. Robert D. Boynton, Jr, Carina Wohl, Martin Wohl, and Mary Lou Stuart, Dental Director at the Musante Center. The dentists worked with Welcome Home Northampton representatives Kathryn Buckley-Brawner of Catholic Charities, Rev. Janet Bush of Unitarian Society of Northampton and Florence, Denys Candy of the Jandon Center at Smith College, and John Bidwell of the United Way of Hampshire County.
“We are glad to help,” says Dr. Carina Wohl, “Giving back to our community is important, including those who are new here.” Because individual dental needs vary, each case is evaluated by a dentist before individual dental plans are put in place. Dr. Boynton adds, “Oral health is life changing. Years of pain and discomfort can be relieved.”
“Refugees have such a difficult journey,” said Dr. Patrick Edmunds of Connecticut Valley Oral Surgery Associates, another dentist performing treatment on refugees, “and we are glad to do a very small part to make it easier.”
All the dentists involved with this program are part of The Valley District Dental Society, which is a major collaborator with Welcome Home refuges in addition to other local efforts, including volunteering for the past two years in providing free Community Dental Days at Springfield Technical Community College (The next scheduled Day is May 2, 2020 at STCC).
Bidwell first suggested the funds be used for dental needs since housing needs were not as great as anticipated, and he knew the importance of dental care for those who need it and can’t afford it. “My wife Kris and I saw this first-hand when a friend from Mali visited the States,” says Bidwell, “Her dental treatment was extensive--but donated--and it was life changing. For the rest of her life she never passed an opportunity to thank that dentist for giving her the gift of being able to eat without pain.”
The Welcome Home Northampton Fund, administered by United Way of Hampshire County, provides assistance for refugee living in Northampton. It was put in place to help with rent and housing, and education and training after the first year of a refugee’s arrival. The first year is covered by the Welcome Refugee Resettlement Fund, administered through Catholic Charities. The goal is for refugees to settle and be financially stable as soon as possible.
Welcome Home Northampton has helped settle eleven families in the City, based on recommendations from Catholic Charities, and is supported by volunteers from Northampton Circles of Care—area residents dedicated to helping refugees. The families are now permanently housed and many are employed. “The response from the refugees to this level of contribution has been almost inexpressible,” say Buckley-Brawner, “the refugees are so moved by the City’s caring.”
Refugee families’ access to dental care and housing is funded in part by a 2017 gift from Smith College to the United Way of Hampshire County for the Welcome Home Northampton Fund, as well as donors across the community.
For more information, visit welcomehomenorthampton.org/