In June 2011, the DentaQuest Foundation launched its Strengthening the Oral Health Safety Net Initiative by awarding a targeted grant of $250,000 to the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC). The grant supports NACHC in implementing a national program to promote oral health access at community health centers.
In addition to the NACHC award, the DentaQuest Foundation initiated a competitive Request for Proposal process and selected five state Primary Care Associations (PCAs) that will receive funding for oral health technical assistance and leadership development to support community health centers across their respective states in expanding oral health services. PCAs are the trade associations of health safety net organizations in their state. PCAs are an important partner because they provide training and continuing education, advocacy and many other services for their members’ health centers.
The five selected state Primary Care Associations include: the Arizona Association of Community Health Centers, Georgia Association for Primary Health Care, Illinois Primary Health Care Association, Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved, and Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Centers. Grants for the Initiative consist of funding as well as direct practice improvement technical assistance to the community health centers to be provided (in-kind) by the DentaQuest Institute, a charitable organization affiliated with the DentaQuest Foundation, and its Safety Net Solutions team.
Together, the DentaQuest Foundation and the DentaQuest Institute are committing $1.75 million to the Strengthening the Oral Health Safety Net Initiative.
Community health centers are America’s health safety net and serve 23 million patients in more than 8,000 communities. These centers provide preventive and primary health care services to people that face financial, geographic, language, cultural and other barriers to getting care. All health centers provide primary care to families regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay, but not all health centers have the capacity to provide dental care. In fact, more than 12 million health center patients do not have access to dental services. DentaQuest Foundation’s Strengthening the Oral Health Safety Net Initiative is working to increase the oral health expertise and capacity of community health centers at the national, state and community levels so these centers are prepared to care for the growing numbers of people seeking care at health centers.
Guiding the Foundation’s efforts for this campaign are successes achieved by the Massachusetts Primary Care Association, the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers (League) in supporting oral health in Massachusetts’ community health centers. With an investment from the DentaQuest Foundation, the League prepared its leadership to support oral health in community health center care as well as oral health advocacy and collaboration among community health centers in Massachusetts. Today, the League provides a wide variety of assistance, based on its expert understanding of federal and state environments and its strong relationships with oral health policymakers and stakeholders.
“When healthcare reform goes into effect in 2014, nearly every child in the U.S. will have access to dental care, many for the first time,” noted Ralph Fuccillo, DentaQuest Foundation President. “We are concerned that the oral health safety net in its current state will not be able to handle the volume of new individuals seeking care. In launching the DentaQuest Foundation’s Strengthening the Oral Safety Net Initiative, we are investing in the preservation and growth of existing and new programs to create a stronger safety net.”
As one of the few access points for care outside of the emergency room for uninsured individuals, community health centers provide critical prenatal care, behavioral health services, and primary and specialty care. By 2015, with new capacity, community health centers will serve 1 out 3 uninsured individuals. The technical assistance awarded through the DentaQuest Foundation’s Strengthening the Oral Health Safety Net Initiative will go a long way in supporting the expansion of oral health capacity to serve these individuals. “Community Health Centers have a proud tradition of building healthier communities and families with a whole health approach that must include oral health,” said Tom Curtin, MD, Chief Medical Officer at the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) and Senior Vice President of the clinical division. “Tooth decay has a devastating impact on children and families, yet it is nearly 100 percent preventable with education, regular check-ups for prevention, and treatment. With wider access to oral health care made possible through initiatives like this, we can bring better health to the medically underserved.”
From 2000 to 2010, the DentaQuest Foundation has supported better oral health with $25 million in grants to identify, cultivate and disseminate best practices and effective policy initiatives that address pressing oral health problems. These grants support the mission of the DentaQuest Foundation to strengthen community initiatives and strategies, to strengthen the dental care safety net, and to increase access to care for vulnerable children and their families.
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About the DentaQuest Foundation
The DentaQuest Foundation (www.dentaquestfoundation.org) invests in national and community-based efforts to improve oral health for all Americans through its support of prevention and access to oral health care, and through its partnerships with funders, policy makers, and community leaders. For more information, please visit dentaquestfoundation.org. The DentaQuest Foundation is supported by DentaQuest. DentaQuest is a leading oral health company, administering prevention-focused dental benefits for nearly 15 million individuals across the United States.
About the DentaQuest Institute
The DentaQuest Institute (www.dentaquestinstitute.org) is a not-for-profit organization focused on quality in dental care delivery. The DentaQuest Institute works with clinical partners across the United States to develop and implement more effective approaches to preventing and managing oral diseases. About NACHC Founded in 1970, the National Association of Community Health Centers (www.nachc.org) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to enhance and expand access to quality, community-responsive health care for America’s medically underserved and uninsured. NACHC represents the nation’s network of over 1,200 Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) which serve 23 million people through 8,000 sites located in all of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam.