CHAMPAIGN — Promise Healthcare's struggling dental center has received another financial boost from Jimmy John Liautaud.
The new $100,000 donation from Liautaud, founder of the Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches chain, has given the dental center based at Promise Healthcare's Frances Nelson Health Center in Champaign $500,000 in assistance to date.
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His support has been primarily to help provide dental care to needy adults who aren't able to obtain it through private dentists.
"We are extremely grateful for this ongoing support from Jimmy John," Promise Healthcare's Executive Director Nancy Greenwalt said in a statement.
The donation will help keep the dental center open, but it won't provide more openings for the many who still need them, Greenwalt said.
Some 65 percent of the dental center's patients pay only a nominal fee for services, and a small number of openings for new patients go fast every week.
Appointments for 16 new patients open up every week, Greenwalt said. Calls for those appointments are taken starting at 9:30 a.m. Friday mornings and they're gone in minutes, she said. Over the weekend the answering machine holds messages from as many as 150 other callers seeing dental appointments, she adds.
The dental center does make exceptions for emergencies, and works in people who are suffering with tooth swelling and pain, Greenwalt said.
Liautaud's gift will help keep the dental center going while the state catches up on processing applications for new Medicaid enrollees and until adult dental benefits are restored to the Medicaid program, according to Greenwalt.
Dental services for adults had been cut in 2012 to emergency care only, but lawmakers recently voted to restore adult dental care in a measure now headed to Gov. Pat Quinn for signature.
Receiving payment through Medicaid for adult dental work would be "huge" for Promise Healthcare's dental center, Greenwalt said.
"There are a lot of people who will have dental coverage who didn't have it before, and it will help us out a ton," she added.