Brighter Way Institute Receives $125,000 from Thunderbirds Charities to Increase Surgical Implant Procedures for Low-Income Adults
Brighter Way Institute, an Arizona-based non-profit organization, with a mission to provide comprehensive oral health care for vulnerable adults, children, veterans, those experiencing homelessness, and individuals with special needs, has been honored with a $125,000 gift from Thunderbirds Charities - hosts of the Waste Management Phoenix Open (WMPO). The grant will help increase complex surgical implant procedures to help veterans, low-income patients, and homeless individuals in need by expanding the Thunderbirds Charities Institute for Implantology Program. This initiative is coordinated by Brighter Way Institute’s Program Director, Dr. Todd Erickson, DDS, MS, the only dually certified oral/maxillofacial surgeon/radiologist in the nation. The Center is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, furnishings and supplies secured through local, national and international manufacturing in-kind donations.
Dr. Michael Golding, D.D.S., President of Thunderbirds Charities, remarked at the opening of the Thunderbirds Charities Institute for Implantology, “What motivates us as an organization is to see what Thunderbirds donations are doing for the community. As an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, it’s very special to see the work Brighter Way Institute is doing, and the innovation in oral health surgery that’s going on here.”
The Diane & Bruce Halle Brighter Way Dental Center is co-located on the Phoenix Human Services Campus (HSC) with 15 complimentary non-profits all serving low-income and homeless adults to meet physical, mental health, employment, housing, food insecurity and other needs. The need is overwhelming. In 2023, Maricopa County reported a total of 9,642 people experiencing homelessness outside of shelters – this is up from 5,029 in 2022. Over the past year, the chronically sheltered number has increased by 81%. Further, from 2017 to 2023, Maricopa County indicates that the total number of chronically homeless has increased by 103%. Over 30% of the population in Maricopa County has not visited a dentist in the past year and the majority of this population has chronic and severe dental disease with limited or no oral health coverage.
Brighter Way Institute was founded by Dr. Kris Volcheck in 2001 and operated as a pilot project out of a small trailer located at the Human Services Campus in downtown Phoenix. In 2016, Brighter Way Institute became a separate non-profit organization, to operate under an expanded framework that includes all vulnerable members of our community and does not limit care to only those experiencing homelessness. Today, Brighter Way Institute’s two dental centers and Mobile Dental Center provide comprehensive routine, restorative and reconstruction services that include dentures, implants and a full range of conscious and unconscious sedation options for children.
Dr. Kris Volcheck, DDS, Founding CEO of Brighter Way during the naming of the Thunderbirds Charities Institute for Implantology, stated, “This gift is transformational as more of our homeless adult population and veterans will now receive the complex oral health care they need to eliminate pain and disease and reduce disparities negatively impacting their lives. Adults are relieved of chronic pain and can eat nutritious food. Self-confidence is renewed, and through collaborations at the Human Services Campus, we are able to help address other social factors impacting patients’ overall well-being. For the first time in years, these individuals return to their community with their wholeness restored and a bright future in store for them. Our thanks to Thunderbirds Charities.”
Utilizing an innovative model that incorporates staff and volunteer dentists, local dental educational institutions, and engages both the for-profit and non-profit sectors, the Brighter Way Institute has navigated gaps in oral health care to significantly address the growing needs and health inequities among the poor and homeless in Maricopa County. To learn more about Brighter Way Institute, visit www.brighterwaydental.org.