For Syracuse's poor and uninsured, free clinic is an oasis in a dental desert

Syracuse, N.Y. – When Cheyenne Anderson got out of federal prison in December she had a mouth full of cavities and no insurance or money to pay for dental care.

"I got to the point where I didn't want to smile because I didn't want people to see my teeth," she said.

Anderson, 24, a member of the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne that straddles the U.S.- Canadian border, was sent to a halfway house in Syracuse after serving three years for smuggling drugs from Canada into the U.S. At the halfway house, she heard about a free dental clinic in downtown Syracuse and made an appointment.

The entrance to the clinic, part of Amaus Health Services at 259 E. Onondaga St., is in the back of a parking lot next to the rectory of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Patients can't get in until they telephone a receptionist who opens the door and escorts them up an elevator to a bare bones second-floor clinic where there is no running water, hand-me down dental equipment and veteran volunteer dentists.

The clinic has provided free dental services to about 175 patients since opening in August of 2014. Amaus, which launched a free medical clinic for the uninsured in 2007, is sponsored by the Cathedral.

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By James T. Mulder | jmulder@syracuse.com
on October 04, 2015