Urgent Dental Care Issues in West Virginia Sparks Call for Action

Harmony Health Foundation
West Virginia, dental care


A groundbreaking report by the West Virginia Oral Health Coalition and Harmony Health Foundation, titled “Beyond the Waiting Room: The State of Dental Care Access in West Virginia,” has brought to light a pressing crisis in dental care access within the state. This comprehensive research and data analysis reveals alarming workforce shortages, economic challenges, and disparities in access to dental care, disproportionately affecting vulnerable populations. In response to these critical findings, the report presents a series of strategic policy recommendations that offer a ray of hope for West Virginia’s dental healthcare landscape.

West Virginia, dental care

“The conclusions drawn from this study are that West Virginians as a whole are facing substantial access to dental care challenges,” stated Dr. Tina Saw, founder of Harmony Health Foundation, the report’s lead research organization. “Vulnerable West Virginians, citizens dependent on government-funded health insurance, and those with I/DD [intellectual/developmental disabilities], face disproportionate barriers receiving dental care.”

The mystery shopper analysis conducted in West Virginia paints a stark picture of the dental care access problem. Twenty-four percent (24%) of dental practices in the state were not accepting new patient appointments, with an alarming average wait time of 70 days for the first available appointment. This report provides a call to action, highlighting the urgent need for policy and operational interventions to address the prolonged wait times and limited access to dental care services, particularly in underserved communities and among individuals dependent on government-funded health insurance.

Greta Nelson, board chair of the West Virginia Oral Health Coalition, shared, “The findings of the report come as no surprise, but do offer readers, including policy makers, and healthcare providers an opportunity to move quickly on proven action steps that can help fix the current crisis”. Nelson goes on to say, “We know the current dental care delivery and financing model are not driving significant improvements in oral health. This is especially true for vulnerable populations, including individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Changes are needed. They may initially be uncomfortable, but now we know what to do about it.”

A strategic plan for West Virginia’s dental care system is unveiled in this report, featuring six key policy recommendations. The plan advocates advanced technology and telehealth integration to reduce wait times and enhance care quality. It stresses collaboration between medical and dental teams, expanding services and preventive practices. Additionally, the report emphasizes improved training and coverage for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, personalized treatment plans, and a shift to value-based models for high-quality care. Finally, it calls for expanded dental coverage to provide comprehensive oral health care for all residents. These recommendations aim to address the state’s persistent dental care challenges.

The findings from this analysis underscore the critical need for immediate action to address dental care disparities in West Virginia. The recommendations outlined in the report have the potential to transform the state’s dental healthcare system, ensuring that all residents have access to timely, high-quality oral healthcare.

For access to the full report and additional information, https://irp.cdn- website.com/4cb23709/files/uploaded/WV_BeyondTheWait_AccesstoCare_Final.pdf.

About the West Virginia Oral Health Coalition (WVOHC)

The West Virginia Oral Health Coalition was established in June of 2010 and is a statewide representation of oral health partners and stakeholders representing diverse interests. These members include an array of local, state, and community associations as well as several national organizations/agencies and are representative of a wide variety of demographics. Approximately 60 members and organizations are part of this coalition, who support and drive grass root oral health efforts. The mission of the WVOHC is to promote and improve the oral health of all West Virginians. The WVOHC strives to increase access to oral health services so that individuals can achieve optimum oral health.

Visit https://www.wvohc.org/ for more information.

About Harmony Health Foundation

Harmony Health Foundation is a non-profit organization committed to using innovative technologies to drive positive change in underserved communities. Our primary focus is on enhancing oral health and fostering community development while advocating for health equity, empowering individuals, and providing pathways to effective downstream change management. We collaborate with partners and actively engage in change management and efforts to uplift marginalized populations. Visit www.harmonyhealthfoundation.org for more information.

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