New Legislators Learn the Importance of Oral Health: "Without adequate dental coverage, I am trapped"
On Monday, January 10th, state legislators joined representatives of the Oral Health Advocacy Taskforce (OHAT) and the Massachusetts Legislative Oral Health Caucus (chaired by Senator Harriette Chandler and Representative John Scibak) to learn more about the importance of oral health and the impact of the cuts to the MassHealth adult dental program (see photos). As members gathered in the Members Lounge, the generous turnout of legislators and supporters paralleled the importance of raising awareness around the negative impact of the budget cuts made in July of 2010 to the MassHealth adult dental program. Presenters explained the systemic consequences of these budget cuts, which included more expensive long-term costs for MassHealth, and legislators heard individual constituent stories. Shirley Royster, MassHealth member and HIV advocate, explained the tangible consequences of these budget cuts. Shirley declared, “I need dental care to stay healthy, eat well, and take my medication. Without adequate dental coverage, I am trapped in this situation: I can either pay to have my teeth fixed out of my own pocket with money I don’t have, or have them extracted." Displaying an apple, she added, "I bought this apple, but I am in too much pain to eat it. It’s impossible to eat well and stay healthy this way.” Dan Delaney, Director of Legislative Affairs at Massachusetts Department of Public Health, also attended and shared a few words about the importance of oral health care. At least twenty-four legislative offices were represented, in addition to Representative Scibak and Senator Chandler, including Representative Tom Sannicandro, Senator Michael Moore, Representative Steven Levy, Representative Jay Kaufman, Representative Denise Provost, Representative Geoff Diehl, Representative Jerald Parisella, Representative Denise Garlick, Representative Steven Howitt, Senator Richard Moore, Representative Gail Cariddi, Representative David Linsky, Representative Paul Brodeur, Representative Coakley-Rivera, Representative Susan Gifford, Representative Kay Khan, Representative Louis Kafka, Chairman Jeffrey Sanchez, Representative Gloria Fox, Representative Linda Dorcena Forry, Representative Chris Walsh, Representative Kim Ferguson, and Representative Denise Provost, and staff from the Committee on Health Care Financing. For more information or questions regarding the event, the Massachusetts Legislative Oral Health Caucus or OHAT please contact Courtney Chelo at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ohat.org. -Courtney Mulroy