New effort to provide health care for Bithlo residents

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —

Two major efforts are under way to provide health care in one of the most impoverished parts of East Orange County.

Private organizations and volunteers are banding together to create a place for Bithlo residents to go for dental care, eye exams and mental health treatment.

Beth Atkinson is one of the many Bithlo residents who suffered from severe tooth decay, but is now getting help.

A new partnership between Florida Hospital and Blue Cross Blue Shield allowed her to get treatment on a dental bus.

"I was invited on the bus and they pulled all my teeth on the uppers. And I'm getting a new plate. So that's exciting. I'm going to have a pretty smile," said Atkinson.

A medical village is being constructed at 19108 E. Colonial Drive in Orlando. The facility will house a permanent dental clinic, an eye clinic and a mental health facility.

"We believe every community should have the opportunity to live life to the fullest," said Verbelee Nielsen-Swanson of Florida Hospital's Community Impact.

All of the resources for the medical village are lined up and ready to go; all it needs is final approval from Community Health Center's board.

”You can't have transformation until you have inspiration," said Tim McKinney of United Global Outreach.

McKinney just closed on the property where community partners will create Transformation Village, with a coffee shop, laundromat, hair salon and library.

"It will be a place where people can congregate and build a sense of community," McKinney said.

Atkinson believes the two villages will help break the cycle of poverty in Bithlo.

"If you lift the spirit, it will lift the area," Atkinson said.

United Global Outreach also said it plans to provide GED courses and computers to help residents apply for jobs.