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. Few settings can provide dental care for patients with special needs. Most, including dental schools, are backlogged with exceptionally long wait times, sometimes a year or more, and which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Many patients and their families travel hours to clinics to receive routine dental care, and some wait for years to receive that care, as highlighted in a CalMatters article published in May.
An approved one-time investment of $50 million will help to alleviate the long wait times for these patients. The investment, advocated by CDA and a coalition of special needs advocates, provider groups and dental schools, will fund grants to build a network of new specialty dental clinics or expand settings that serve individuals with physical, developmental or cognitive disabilities.
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.
In consultation with the California Dental Association Foundation, CHFFA will develop the competitive grant program’s guidelines, application process, eligibility criteria, and methodology for the distribution of grant funds. Entities can apply for a grant of up to $5 million, with grant awardees being required to commit to serving 50% patients with special health care needs for 10 years. At least 10 entities, and possibly many more, may receive a grant, depending on the award amounts of each grant.
The additional care settings will significantly expand access to dental care for individuals who are unable to undergo dental procedures in traditional dental offices either due to special health care needs or the complexity of the care needed ― sometimes requiring special accommodations for mobility issues, stabilization or deep sedation.
Prospective applicants can bookmark the CHFFA’s grant program webpage to sign up for updates, download the application, or ask questions about the grant program.
The CDA Foundation was selected as the grant administrator of the Community-Based Clinical Education funds that CDA successfully advocated for in 2022. Seven California dental schools will be awarded $7 million to expand their CBCE rotation sites in underserved communities throughout the state.
The new rotations will address two goals: to improve access to quality health care services and to foster a health care workforce that is able to address current and emerging needs.
CDA’s ask was spurred by findings of the 2018-2028 California Oral Health Plan advisory committee, which indicated “insufficient infrastructure to promote culturally sensitive community-based oral health programs” was a key reason for the high prevalence of dental caries and untreated dental caries among grade three children. The committee also recommended increased collaboration between various health care, academic and public health organizations to provide dental care to underserved Californians.
The new, self-sustaining clinical rotations model will give trainees real-world experiences in various dental practice models, including federally qualified health centers, private offices and mobile dentistry to enhance learning in patient engagement, practice management and team-based care delivery.
To learn more, please see our recently published news article.
In 2021, CDA Foundation entered into a grant agreement with the California Department of Public Health’s Office of Oral Health to provide trainings and materials to educate dentists and the public on the administration and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines. Our impact has quantified the value of vaccination by dental teams and identified the highest needs communities where vaccination efforts can strengthen. CDA Foundation has successfully implemented various activities to support the dental profession in its efforts to meet the needs of the community in responding to COVID-19 through webinars, resource development, and course offerings. We made significant progress in enhancing vaccine confidence among dentists, dental team, and patients, which has opened opportunities for further engagement in disease prevention efforts. In an effort to showcase some of the work that has been done throughout the pandemic, CDA Foundation is pleased to share our Impact Report and Overview of the 2021-2023 Vaccine Confidence Grant.