The School of Dental Medicine has received a $550,000 grant from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation to provide dental care to individuals who are homeless, as well as underinsured families in Western New York, populations who are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funding will provide nearly 100 days of free dental care, including at the Buffalo City Mission to individuals who are homeless. It will also support the delivery of nearly 3,000 dental visits to uninsured and underinsured children at more than 30 Head Start and elementary schools in the region. The grant will fund delivery of oral health counseling and treatment to hundreds of families receiving medical care at Jamestown Pediatric Associates as well.
The care will be delivered through the S-Miles To Go program using the School of Dental Medicine’s two state-of-the-art mobile dental clinics, each outfitted with an X-ray unit, sterilization center and more.
The mobile clinics, staffed by UB dental faculty, staff and students, will also provide students with experiential learning opportunities caring for vulnerable populations in the region and may encourage them to work in underserved settings.
“The lack of access to dental care was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic in Western New York. This is particularly true among school-aged children and the homeless,” says Stephen N. Abel, senior director of community and professional initiatives at the dental school. “Partnering with the staff of Jamestown Pediatrics and Buffalo City Mission will greatly assist the School of Dental Medicine outreach programming in identifying and reaching those most in need of our services to prevent dental disease.”
The Mother Cabrini Health Foundation provides funding to enhance access to affordable, quality health care and to address the unmet health care needs of communities across New York.
“As we look back at the compounding crises of the last few years, the health-related needs of vulnerable communities have only grown. Our grantees have demonstrated tremendous resilience, creativity and dedication to serving those in need, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have such detrimental impact,” says Alfred F. Kelly Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of Visa and chair of the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation Board.
Removing the barriers to dental care is an urgent issue in rural Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties, where many residents are affected by poverty and a limited pool of providers, says Paula Fischer, director of school-based dental programs in the School of Dental Medicine.
The new initiative would help remove barriers to care, such as the lack of insurance or transportation, by offering dental services — including cleanings, fluoride varnish applications, surgical procedures, oral hygiene instruction and nutrition counseling — to children in a UB mobile dental clinic stationed outside local schools.
Throughout the summer and during school breaks, the dental school will partner with Jamestown Pediatric Associates, one of the largest pediatric medical providers in Chautauqua County serving nearly 10,000 children, to provide interprofessional training to its primary care staff on the delivery of basic oral health assessments and treatment, as well as offer oral health counseling to families in waiting areas. A UB mobile dental clinic will also be stationed outside Jamestown Pediatric Associates to offer dental services.
“Most children are exposed to medical care at an early age, but not dental care,” says Fischer, also project coordinator for the UB Rural Dentistry Program. “Primary care medical providers have the opportunity to play an important role in helping children and their families gain access to dental care.”
The School of Dental Medicine has also forged a partnership with the Buffalo City Mission, which works to alleviate homelessness in the local community, to offer on-site dental care to compliment the mission’s medical, behavioral and social services. A UB mobile dental clinic will provide dental care one day each week at a Buffalo City Mission location.
The partnerships, says Fischer, aim to break down the siloed environment in which dental care is traditionally practiced.
“Engaging with medical primary care workers and social workers within these partnering agencies will greatly assist us in managing and preventing dental disease,” says Fischer.