By Andrea Peacock
Under-privileged children will soon have access to free dental care thanks to a society started by a local dentist.
Dr. Mitra Hashemi, a Sidney dentist at her own practice, Coast Dental Care, started ORCCA, or Oral Care for Children and Adolescents.
Construction of the ORCCA office began at the beginning of June and is now in the final stages of renovation. It is set to open in September at the annex building at Sidney Elementary School.
The program targets children whose families earn between $21,000 and $40,000 a year and who do not have dental coverage or insurance. These families are otherwise unable to apply for B.C.’s Healthy Kids program, which is only eligible for those making less than $21,000 a year.
“I’m pretty sure we’re going to touch a lot of lives,” said Hashemi.
Although ORCCA has yet to officially open, Hashemi has been visiting some of those patients at her own office until they can be transferred.
“Some kids, they’re in pain,” said Hashemi. “You have to do something; you can’t just stand around.”
While Hashemi is the only dentist fully committed to the society so far, she said she has had interest from other dentists, including orthodontist Dr. Vohn Rosang. Rosang has offered to accept five patients per year through ORCCA, said Hashemi.
“[It] is a very generous offer from him.”
Retired dentists and Hashemi herself have donated dental equipment to ORCCA. Individuals and foundations have also donated money to the society.
So far, ORCCA has raised between $100,000 and $200,000 said Heather Burkett, board chair of ORCCA.
“We’re extremely grateful to all of the community members who have come together to help us,” said Burkett. “It’s been really heartening to see the community coming together and obviously recognizing the need, because there is a huge need out there for kids.”
Burkett said they are now raising funds to hire an office manager.
An upcoming concert fundraiser for ORCCA will take place on Sept. 14 in Beacon Park, Sidney from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
It was initially scheduled for this past June, but was rescheduled due to rain.
Sidney Town Councilor Kenny Podmore put together the concert.
“It features local artists and guests with the Craig Henderson Trio topping the bill,” said Podmore. “There is music for everyone.”
A total of 16 artists will be at the concert, all of who are donating their time. The concert will be by donation, and all of the funds will be given to ORCCA.
“I think this is an amazing program and [I] want to support it,” said Podmore.