Ayuda of Southern Arizona, Inc. was formed with the mission of providing services to the underserved populations of Southern Arizona. It became clear in our first year of existence that one significantly underserved population was retired or disabled Veterans in need of essential dental care as they were unable to obtain such services through other government programs or agencies. To meet this need, Ayuda’s Smiles For Veterans Program was started and began to partner with local dentists and dental labs to obtain dental services and prosthetics (dentures, implants, etc.) at a reduced rate, cost or for free. Most of our applicants are homeless or below poverty level and part of our screening mandates that the applicant not have resources to obtain essential dental care without our assistance.
In the last year, Ayuda has partnered with several American Legion and VFW Posts as well as Tucson Veterans Serving Veterans (another local non-profit organization – TVSV) to have additional funding for providing dental care. Ayuda is responsible for organizing, coordinating and facilitating the dental care for qualified Veterans which includes determining a Veteran’s eligibility, obtaining a proposed dental plan, and coordinating care. The American Legion posts as well as TVSV provided payment directly to the dental labs or dentists providing the services. In addition, in some instances when funding is available, Ayuda either pays 50% of the bill or if there is no additional funding from other sources then Ayuda pays the entire bill.
Also, in the past year, Ayuda facilitated a “Day of Service” with the Aspen Dental’s Mouth Mobile in April with 26 Veterans receiving free 30 minute appointments. Of the 26, Aspen took the 2 most critical cases and provided follow up care to the completion of dentures at no charge. In July, we did another “Day of Service” with Associated Dental. With 3 dentist and 4 hygienists volunteering their time, 20 Veterans received 45 minute appointments and were provided with proposed treatment plans. Associated then took 7 Veterans to completion at no charge.
In 2017, 46 Veterans received completed treatment plans through participating Dental , 5 more are still in treatment at Associated, 3 more are still in treatment. That is 54 Veterans receiving critical and life changing dental care.