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Health fair the cure for costly care

Published July 11, 2014 10:19 pm

CARE • Event offers medical, dental services free of charge.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Dentist appointments are dreaded by many, but the line for a cleaning and checkup Friday wrapped around the hall of the Horizonte Center.

What got people past their fears? The whole thing was free.

The Junior League of Salt Lake City kicked off its 22nd annual Community Assistance Resource Event on Friday morning to provide health services to the public, free of charge.

Jolene Terry-Phinney, Junior League president, said the group tries to address the needs of people in the valley who can't afford health care.

By far, the most popular offering was the cleaning, sealant and fluoride treatment.

Junior League President-elect Heather Bertotti Sarin said people sometimes get turned away from the dental service because there's not enough time to help everyone. She speculates the reason for the popularity is because health insurance plans don't always cover dental services and, even when they do, the additional costs and copays are still expensive.

Kiana is self-sufficient and has a job and health insurance. But the woman, who didn't want to disclose her last name, doesn't have enough money to cover the copay for the dental work.

Volunteers came from various dental clinics across the valley, but a handful also came from the University of Utah.

"We're all just anxious to help people," second-year dental student Devin Burns said. "Even though we can't do everything, we can do something."

John Houchins, physician at the University of Utah's Department of Family Medicine, has been providing volunteers from the university for 20 years.

"Everybody owes this to the community," he said. "It's overwhelmingly positive for the students."

Other services offered include women's examinations, immunizations, diabetes and cholesterol screenings, hearing and vision tests, physical exams, mental health sessions and free child care.

Organizers feared the new federal health insurance law might cause decreased attendance, but at least 100 to 200 people filled the halls of the building Friday morning.

"We think there are still going to be individuals, some immigrants, who are uninsured. People can only afford so much," said Terry-Phinney.

Elisa Hollyhand brought her parents to the fair because they're uninsured, and Jasmin Calix needed a vision checkup but no longer has health insurance. "We like it, because it's good and convenient," Hollyhand said.

Free car seats and bike helmets were also distributed. Several translators were available to help with languages including Portuguese, Russian, Vietnamese and the most common, Spanish.

In 2013, the fair served 3,178 clients. About 84 percent of the fair's participants were uninsured and 88 percent had an income less than $30,000.

The fair will continue Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.