live Winner / 2021

Healing Los Angeles: Free Dental & Vision Care

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by Healing California

Healing California believes that access to quality health care is a basic human right. We provide free, quality dental and vision care to uninsured and underrepresented Los Angelenos, including veterans and homeless individuals and families. In collaboration with health clinics and veteran organizations, we deploy our mobile health care van to neighborhoods across LA County that have the highest need for our services and provide care to 20 dental patients and 25 vision patients per day.


In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • County of Los Angeles

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

Healing California was created by a group of concerned health care professionals and community members who recognized the dire need for free, quality dental and vision care for uninsured and underserved residents of California, where 3.9 million people lack access to basic dental and vision care. In LA County, more than 10% of people under age 65 lack health insurance of any type. Additionally, LA has the largest population of homeless veterans in the country. According to 2019 U.S. Census data, 3,874 veterans were homeless in LA. This number is likely higher now due to a myriad of stressors caused by the pandemic. Living on the streets makes it extremely difficult for a person to access basic preventative health care services. Poor vision and oral health severely limits the ability of individuals to thrive in their work, home life and communities and often leads to and exacerbates other health problems.

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

Healing California provides low-barrier, comprehensive dental and vision care services at no cost to individuals who would otherwise not have access to quality care. By partnering with other community and nonprofit organizations and a vast network of volunteer licensed health care professionals, we serve patients at community health clinics, Veteran Stand Downs and other locations throughout LA County. We remove as many barriers as possible to patients receiving care. We do not require identification or proof of income or citizenship; we limit paperwork to the minimum necessary; we do not charge for our services; we provide language interpretation when possible. Above all, we treat our patients with dignity and respect. In response to the pandemic, we adapted our service model to include a mobile health care van that allows us to travel to neighborhoods that have the highest need for our services. We can serve up to 20 patients per day with dental care services and 25 patients per day with vision care services. Our dental services include cleanings, x-rays, fillings, extractions and more. We provide all tools, supplies, equipment and PPE that dentists and other dental professionals need to deliver high quality services. Our vision services include complete eye exams and on-site fabrication and distribution of custom prescription eyeglasses. More complex prescriptions are filled at no cost to patients within 7-10 days with the aid of a partner optical laboratory.

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative (expanding and continuing ongoing, successful work)

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

900
Direct impact

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

By working to improve the dental and vision health of low-income, uninsured and underrepresented individuals throughout LA County, Healing California is a champion for equitable health care coverage and access for all people. We help people live life free of infection and pain; we help people see well enough to read again; we help people move beyond the misery of a toothache or blurry vision so they can meet the opportunities and challenges presented to them as individuals and as community members. Our patients are predominantly non-White (70%) and low-income (89%). Last year, nearly 41% of our patients identified as female. Every single one of our patients has powerful potential to contribute to meaningful and positive change in their lives, communities and neighborhoods. By providing access to basic health care, we are helping make it possible for our patients to seize their important role in making LA the best place to learn, create, play, connect and live.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

We implement qualitative assessments and collect quantitative metrics to assess the impact of our services. Qualitative assessments include general evaluations to measure program effectiveness in addressing patient needs. We also conduct focused follow-up discussions with partner agencies to determine the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations, analyze the overall success of each event, and determine additional needs and areas for improvement. We utilize feedback surveys to determine patient and volunteer satisfaction and identify areas for improvement. Quantitative measures to assess the impact of services at each clinic and service site include tracking the number of patients served, the dollar value of services provided per patient and per clinic, and the number of prescription glasses produced. We are committed to the highest standard of care and consult the American Dental Association and California Optometric Association for industry best practices and service rates.

Which of the live metrics will you impact?​

  • Healthcare access
  • Older adult well-being
  • Homelessness