WellSpan Health announces today that it has been awarded a $2.2 million grant, the second largest grant in WellSpan history, to improve access to dental services for vulnerable, underserved and rural populations across southcentral Pennsylvania.
“WellSpan is always striving to find a better way to serve our communities and adopt new ways of delivering healthcare to those who need it most,” said Victoria Diamond, senior vice president for the central region of WellSpan Health and president, WellSpan York Hospital. “With this grant, we will design and implement a program offering that can serve as a model for others. We want physicians and community advocates across the country to look at our program in five years and say, ‘This innovation in clinical service is something that we can reproduce here in our own community.’”
WellSpan Health will receive $2,249,373 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration over five years to fund the WellSpan Health Access to Dental program. WellSpan plans to launch a new mobile dental clinic aimed at serving long-term care facilities.
The mobile dental clinic is scheduled to begin by the end of 2020 and will be utilized in multiple counties served by WellSpan. The grant will also be used to improve access to dental services by expanding the dental residency program provided at WellSpan York Hospital Dental Center, and its satellite site, the Hoodner Dental Center in York.
“We know that access to healthcare can be a problem for many,” said Craig Pate, D.M.D., residency program director at WellSpan York Hospital Dental Center. “A lot of rural communities have limited dental care options and some patients have to travel over an hour to receive care.”
Part of the grant will be used to develop a Dental Healthcare Coordinator position.
“The Dental Health Coordinator will be a public health hygienist,” explained Pate. “That person would go out into these communities and provide care. We want to create bridges to these groups, to take down barriers to care, so it’s easier for them to get the dental care they need.”
The Dental Health Coordinator would provide education and preventative services, including cleanings, radiographs and dental sealants. Oral exams will be completed by the Dental Health Coordinator, in conjunction with a dentist through teledentistry.
The goal is to engage with long-term care facilities, as well as with federally qualified health centers, establishing new dental-related partnerships.
“We’re also trying to increase cultural diversity in the residency program itself,” said Pate. “At the end of the five years, I hope we are able to create a more diverse residency, creating ambassadors that can promote dental health and dental care across all communities. We want to use this program to help as many people as possible get access to quality dental care.”
The grant runs through 2025.
For more information on the dental services offered by WellSpan Health, visit WellSpan.org/programs/dental-services.