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Progress is underway to expand access to dental care for patients with special health care needs in California.
The Specialty Dental Clinic Grant Program, made possible through a $50 million state budgetary investment (over two years) led by CDA and supported by a coalition of providers, dental schools, disability rights organizations and consumer advocates, is in the development stages and is estimated to begin accepting applications by summer 2023.
The program’s aim is to build a network of new specialty dental clinics or expand existing facilities to increase access to oral health care for individuals with special health care needs. These patients have physical, developmental or cognitive disabilities that can require stabilization, deep sedation, special accommodations for mobility issues or other complex treatment that cannot be performed in traditional dental offices.
The $50 million, with separate $25 million allocations in years 2022 and 2023, for administration of the grant program, was a historic win for dentistry and oral health care access, CDA wrote in June after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the 2022-23 state budget.
Lack of access to dental care for patients with special needs is a decades-long crisis, even as the state has made strides to increase access in the Medi-Cal Dental Program, and few settings can provide dental care for patients with special needs. Most, including dental schools, are backlogged with exceptionally long wait times that the pandemic has only exacerbated. Many patients and their families travel hours to clinics to receive routine dental care, and some wait for years to receive that care.
Funds from the Specialty Dental Clinic Grant Program, which is being administered by California Health Facilities Financing Authority, can be used to expand or adapt specialty clinics at university dental schools or to construct new clinics that serve individuals with special health care needs.
The new and expanded clinics funded by the grant program will increase timely access to oral health care in California communities while reducing geographic shortages, encouraging prevention services and early intervention and providing education opportunities for providers and students.
Although the grant application is not yet available, State Treasurer Fiona Ma announced in November that development of the program was underway, and the first meeting to create the grant program was held Nov. 4 with CDA and over 100 other stakeholders attending and providing input.
“In consultation with the California Dental Association and other stakeholders, CHFFA will develop the competitive grant program’s guidelines, application process, eligibility criteria, and methodology for the distribution of grant funds,” the State Treasurer’s news release explains.
Key details of the grant program are:
At least 10 entities, and possibly many more, may receive a grant, depending on the award amounts of each grant.
“The $50 million to expand and expedite dental services for patients with special needs was a top budget priority for CDA this year, and we are very pleased with the state’s momentum to bring the grant application to eligible applicants in 2023,” said CDA President Ariane Terlet, DDS. “We were there at the Nov. 4 kickoff meeting and will continue working with the grant administrator to help ensure the grant’s final design will ultimately reach the patients who need it the most.”
CDA will keep members informed through the newsroom, weekly newsletter and social media of the Specialty Dental Clinic Grant Program’s development timeline and opening date of applications. Prospective applicants can also bookmark the CHFFA’s grant program webpage or visit the page now to sign up for updates or ask questions about the grant program.