The Oral Health Access Strategic Plan
In May, Laura Marcus, Executive Director of Dientes Community Dental Care, came to HIPC to detail the Oral Health Access Strategic Plan. In 2016, Dientes commissioned the first-ever county wide Oral Health Needs Assessment. While Medi-Cal expansion led to increased insurance, only a fraction of those insured visited the dentist. On behalf of the Oral Health Steering Committee, Laura Marcus presented a series of recommendations to address inadequate dental care access in Santa Cruz County.
The first recommendation, the “First Tooth, First Birthday” educational campaign, will encourage parents to take their children to the dentist as early as the appearance of their first tooth. The second recommendation is the implementation of mandatory kindergarten or first grade oral health screenings. The third recommendation is a multi-part goal consisting of expanding treatment, prevention, and clinical capacity. Santa Cruz County dental providers accepting Denti-Cal operate at full capacity, limiting the number of low-income patients who have access to dental services. In response, Dientes has announced its goal to expand its capacity by constructing a new clinic in collaboration with Santa Cruz Community Health Centers, potentially at the East Cliff site, to be operational by 2020. However, to address immediate needs, Dientes and Salud Para La Gente have announced that starting June 1, Dientes will continue to provide comprehensive dental services at the Beach Flats Dental Clinic previously occupied by Salud. Aside from expanding physical capacity, the strategic plan hopes to have medical staff trained to apply fluoride varnish during well-child visits to reduce tooth decay. Dr. Salem Magarian, Pediatric Medical Director at Santa Cruz Community Health Centers, will be piloting the application in his own practice. The last part of this recommendation involves the recruitment of more mid-level providers and pediatric dentists. Salud Para La Gente will use the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant as a means to add provider capacity.
Santa Cruz County needs HIPC leadership to champion these efforts. Low-income patients face inadequate dental care access due to the limited number of offices that accept Denti-Cal in the County. Moreover, dentists usually do not see children by their first tooth or their first birthday. Often low-income residents lacking dental care suffer from health complications and social backlash related to poor dental health. Within the Oral Health Access Strategic Plan are actions and initiatives that leverage partnerships in all sectors of the community to improve dental health in the County. We can all play a part!
Effects of Policy and Politics on Planned Parenthood
Lupe Rodríguez, Director of Public Affairs of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, shared the challenges faced by Planned Parenthood as the result of policy and politics in Washington since the November 2016 election. Since the administration transition, Planned Parenthood has faced multiple defunding attempts. A provision in the American Health Care Act, first introduced by Republicans on March 6 and passed through the House on May 4, would immediately discontinue federal funds to clinics providing abortions.
The current administration has acted aggressively toward Planned Parenthood due to its involvement in abortion services, however abortion accounts for only 2% of the services provided at Planned Parenthood. Overall, 850,000 Californians go to 115 Planned Parenthood health centers state-wide. Federal funding provides approximately 80% of the total operating budget of Planned Parenthood.
Ms. Rodríguez offered suggestions to those who want to stand in solidarity with Planned Parenthood. This included joining the Planned Parenthood volunteer list, sharing stories about experiences with Planned Parenthood health services, donating to a local Planned Parenthood and engaging on social media.