Local and state leaders were on hand Friday to formally announce the fourth annual Mission of Mercy coming next month to the Comanche County Fairgrounds.
The free two-day dental clinic will open at 5 a.m. Feb. 1 and 2, and will provide a variety of services, including cleanings, fillings, extractions and anterior root canals for more than 2,000 people. The clinic is an annual event that takes place in a different Oklahoma town each year. Lawton was chosen, in part, due to the work of local leaders such as Mayor Fred Fitch, state representatives Randy Bass and Don Armes and House Speaker T.W. Shannon all of whom were in attendance at a press conference Friday in the Prairie Building. Mission of Mercy co-chairmen Dr. Juan Lopez and Dr. Todd Bridges were also in attendance.
"We strongly believe this mission needs to go where the need is most present," said Bridges, president of the Oklahoma Dental Association.
The need is apparent in Oklahoma, as Bridges outlined with sobering statistics. Oklahoma ranks as the worst state for percentage of adults visiting a dentist at least once a year. Around 86 percent of Oklahomans don't have any form of dental insurance. More than 1.4 million Oklahomans go without any sort of dental care. Shannon said those numbers illustrate why the need for Mission of Mercy is so great.
"When you think about the challenges ahead for Oklahoma and making Oklahoma the most prosperous state in the nation certainly a lofty goal, but a goal we're going to be focused on in the next session it's people like those involved in today's mission that are going to make that possible," he said. "People who are willing to look beyond themselves and remember the golden rule about treating your neighbor like you want to be treated."
Shannon said the fervor behind Mission of Mercy highlights a need for healthcare in Oklahoma, and what he called its tremendous indigent population. He said Oklahomans need to commit to helping each other, and that begins with ensuring that prosperity flourishes.
"We need to ensure that we see that prosperity gain, that we continue the pro-growth, pro-job agenda that creates more prosperity, creates more wealth and allows people to continue to contribute to organizations like this, that help to promote the health and future of Oklahomans," he said.