HHS to Award $156 Million to Expand Oral Healthcare

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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will provide $156 million to support 420 health centers in 47 states as well as in the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to increase access to integrated oral healthcare services and improve oral health outcomes.

These health centers will use the funding to expand the oral healthcare services that they provide and increase the number of patients that they serve. According to HHS, these centers will hire approximately 1,600 new dentists, dental hygienists, assistants, aides, and technicians to treat nearly 785,000 new patients.

“Oral health is an important part of our overall physical health and well-being,” said HHS secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “The funding we are awarding will reduce barriers to quality dental care for hundreds of thousands of Americans by bringing new oral health providers to health centers across the country.”

HHS acknowledges that oral health problems can indicate illness elsewhere in the body. Additionally, the department recognizes that lack of access to preventive and routine dental care for underserved populations can result in dental conditions requiring more costly emergency dental treatment.

“The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will continue to explore ways to further integrate oral health services within primary care settings and increase awareness of the connection between oral health and overall health,” said HRSA acting administrator Jim Macrae.

All HRSA-funded health centers were eligible to apply for the awards. All applications were reviewed by an objective review committee comprising experts from outside the federal government reviewed all applications after they were approved for eligibility. The committee then scored and ranked the applications, and the HRSA provided funding accordingly.

The health centers in California will receive more than $24 million. Those in New York will receive $8.65 million. Florida’s health centers will receive $7.6 million. Missouri’s health centers will receive almost $7.5 million. Ohio’s health centers will receive almost $6.5 million. And, North Carolina’s health centers will receive $5.25 million.

Health centers in Nevada, Wyoming, and North Dakota won’t be receiving this funding, either because the HRSA did not receive applications from any health centers in those states or because the applications that were received did not score high enough to be awarded funding. Applications to HRSA are considered pre-decisional, so the administration cannot comment further on why the centers in those states did not receive any funding.

Nearly 1,400 health centers operate approximately 9,800 service delivery sites in each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the Pacific Basin, employing more than 170,000 workers who treat nearly 23 million patients. In 2014, these employees included more than 3,700 dentists, more than 1,600 dental hygienists, and more than 7,400 dental assistants, technicians, and aides, serving about 4.7 million patients in nearly 12 million oral health visits.

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