Hundreds of Oral Health Advocates Show Support for Local Dental Pilot Projects

Hundreds of Oral Health Advocates Show Support for Local Dental Pilot Projects

More than 500 non-profits, community-based organizations, dentists, and other oral health stakeholders from across California have joined together to support an extension of innovative pilots that are working to improve access to dental care for children in Medi-Cal. In a joint letter led by The Children’s Partnership, Children Now, and the California Oral Health Progress and Equity Network (CA-OPEN), 82 organizations and over 458 individual oral health advocates have urged the Department of Health Care Services to include the Local Dental Pilot Projects (LDPPs) in a request for a one-year extension of the state’s Medi-Cal 2020 Section 1115 Waiver, set to expire at the end of December 2020.

The thirteen LDPPs provide much-needed oral health services at schools, WIC sites, health centers, and other community sites. Through the LDPPs, many children who had never had dental care before are now able to receive it in their community. Additionally, parents receive care coordination assistance to navigate the dental care delivery system, as well as support in accessing other vital services, such as nutrition assistance.

“California has worked to make progress in improving oral health access for children of color, low-income children and other marginalized communities. Now is not the time to lose that momentum. These local pilot projects provide important and needed oral health services to thousands of children and families in their communities, and they do so through community partnership and family engagement. As we work to respond to COVID-19 and dismantle systemic inequities, the lessons from these pilots will strengthen our collective commitment to oral health equity – now and in the future,” said Mayra E. Alvarez, President of The Children’s Partnership.

“California has a responsibility to do better for all kids. At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is only exposing and exacerbating health inequities across racial and ethnic lines, the Local Dental Pilot Projects have become a trusted community-based resource for children and families insured by Medi-Cal. The pilots meet families where they are — doctors, offices, schools, WICs, family resource centers — to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate oral health education, dental care coordination, and preventive oral health services to ensure the overall health and well-being of children. As a result of the pilots’ efforts almost a half million children and families in our state have been connected to dental services and received oral health education. The state has a responsibility to see through their investment to not only be able to glean learnings from the pilots, but to also ensure that the children and families hardest hit by the pandemic continue to receive the support provided by the pilots during this crisis,” said Ted Lempert, President of Children Now.

“It is imperative that we maintain Local Dental Pilot Projects in order to address and close racial and ethnic health disparities in oral health. Protecting and preserving innovative programs in our dental care, especially during a pandemic, is critical for millions of families. These programs work hand in hand with trusted community partners in reaching communities of color and low income families to provide culturally and linguistically competent care. LDPPs have been tremendous in increasing oral health literacy, improving preventative care, and getting children on the right oral health path,” said Carolina Valle of CA-OPEN.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate racial disparities in our state’s health, social, and economic systems—including racial inequities in dental care access. The thirteen LDPPs have served as a trusted source of care in their communities, and have successfully improved access to dental services for thousands of low-income children enrolled in Medi-Cal.

Including the LDPPs in the waiver extension request directly supports our shared goal of advancing oral health equity for children in Medi-Cal by ensuring they get needed community-based oral health care as we rebuild from the pandemic.

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