Oral Health in Action

Oral Health in Action

Attending Disability Advocates Advancing our Healthcare Rights Coalition Meeting - May 31, 2018

HCFA's Oral Health team members, Dr. Neetu Singh and Alexis Major, along with Associate Director of Policy and Government Relations Suzanne Curry, listened to personal accounts get told about MassHealth, Accountable Care Organizations, and One Care. The meeting, hosted by Boston Center for Independent Living, offered a great way to hear first hand stories about the difficulties some have had accessing proper health care. With the opportunity to hear from Bill Henning, of BCIL, and Dennis Heaphy, of the Disability Policy Consortium, Neetu and Alexis were glad to be in attendance to help answer questions related to oral health care in Massachusetts.

Women Connecting Affecting Change - May 30, 2018

Community Awareness Day, put together by the Multi Cultural AIDS Coalition, was a great experience for the HCFA Oral Health team. At an event that offered free HIV/STI screenings, navigation to detox sessions, and free music/food (shoutout to Perry's Gourmet Catering), there were plenty of chances to discuss oral health and its importance. Harvard Street Health Center and Northeastern University Bouve College of Health Sciences were in attendence to help facilitate the testing and distribution of supplies. Alexis Major, HCFA's Oral Health Organizer, saw the event as a huge success and looks forward to more like it in the future!

Oral Health Team Supports OHAT Coalition Partners - May 24, 2018

The Disability Policy Consortium, a partner organization of HCFA's in Oral Health Advocacy Taskforce, recently released a Call to Action detailing the urgent need to address the oral health disparities for people with disabilities. As stated by Amy Rosenthal, HCFA's Executive Director, "Oral Health is a particular concern for populations with high medical needs because, in many cases, there are additional hurdles that hinder their ability to access teh dental services they need to be healthy. One example of these challenges is the shortage of dental providers who accept MassHealth, and many who do may not have the additional training or office space needed to treat persons with disabilities." We highly encourage everyone to read the full Call to Action and learn how to get more involved with helping those with disabilities gain access to oral health care. Read the full document by clicking here.

Oral Health Advocacy Taskforce Convenes For Discussion - May 23, 2018

HCFA was happy to host 2018's first of many coalition-wide meetings for the latest Oral Health Advocacy Taskforce (OHAT). The event was put together by Alexis Major, HCFA's Oral Health Organizer, Dr. Neetu Singh, HCFA's Oral Health Project Director, and Brian Rosman, HCFA's Director of Policy and Government Relations. Many of the 70+ organizations that make up OHAT were in attendance for the discussions about reintegrating adult oral health benefits into health care and priorities within the recently released Massachusetts Senate FY19 budget amendments. Those in attendance were involved in spirited discussion and great networking opportunities over the provided lunch. Afterwards, the coalition took some time to recognize and honor Representative John Scibak, who is retiring at the end of this legislative session. A huge advocate for oral health, Rep. Scibak is going to be sorely missed by every member of OHAT. Everyone at Health Care For All is looking forward to continuing to foster these relationships with the entire OHAT coalition. This luncheon was a huge success and we cannot wait for more in the future!

HCFA Celebrates at For The People 2018 - May 10, 2018

The HCFA Oral Health team joined the rest of Health Care For All in putting together our annual fundraiser, For The People 2018. It was a fantastic event raising money for our mission to provide access to quality and comprehensive health care (including oral health) to all Massachusetts residents. To see pictures from the night, feel free to click here. 

Healthy Teeth May Signal Healthy Heart - April 19, 2018

A recent article in US News caught the eye of Dr. Neetu Singh, HCFA's Oral Health Project Director. Based on research conducted at Harvard University, the piece pointed out that there is clear correlation between heart health and taking proper care of your teeth.
"A recent clinical study focusing on tooth loss during midlife found that people who lost two or more teeth during the trial had a 23 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
The increase occurred regardless of other cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes..."
To read the full article, and view the accompanying video, click here.

HCFA Takes on the State House For Oral Health - April 4 - April 5, 2018

The Oral Health team was all over the State House this week as Alexis Major, HCFA's Oral Health Organizer, attended Immigrant's Day on April 4th. The event was hosted by the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coaliton (MIRA) and was meant to promote health and wellness among all immigrants. Alexis took advantage by stressing the importance of oral health to attendees.
A day later, on April 5th, Dr. Neetu Singh, HCFA's Oral Health Project Director, took part in Boston Children's Day at the State House. The biennial State House Advocacy Rounds and Education (SHARE) event offers a great way for advocates to bring up important children's health issues with legislators. Neetu emphasized how critical it is that children have access to proper oral health care from a young age! 

HCFA in New Mexico this week talking Dental Therapy - March 26 - March 28, 2018

That's right, HCFA's Oral Health team was in the Land of Enchantment earlier this week at the Dental Therapist Project Conference and Partner Convening in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Brian Rosman, HCFA's Policy Director, Dr. Neetu Singh, HCFA's Oral Health Project Director, and Alexis Major, HCFA's Oral Health Organizer all took part in this national meeting with many other organizations. With studies consistently showing that dental therapists effectively expand access to dental care, the Oral Health team was more than happy to hear from many different experts in many different areas of the oral health field.

Connecting With STEPRox Recovery Center - February 12, 2018

In continued efforts to promote dental therapy, the Oral Health team met on Monday with members of the STEPRox Recovery center group, whose parent organization is North Suffolk. Discussions regarding oral health and integration were incredibly productive and HCFA looks forward to speaking with other North Suffolk groups in the future. Continued discussions regarding oral health and dental therapy are keeping us hopeful as we look to the future. 

Oral Health Team Works With Rosie's Place - February 6, 2018

HCFA's Oral Health team was recently at Rosie's Place to present about dental therapy. During the discussion that took place, stories were shared by group members about how difficult it can often be gaining access to dental care. Many in the group responded well to the idea of dental therapists making access easier and providing more jobs to local economies. 

Over 20 members participated in the discussion, and nursing students at logcal Regis College sat in and observed the event. We are so glad to have had this opportunity to sit down with community members to discuss such an important topic and we look forward to doing so again in the future. 

 

HCFA'S Oral Health Team Visits Adult Day Center - January 31, 2018

 In their continued flurry of activity, the Oral Health team was in Mattapan today speaking at the Mattapan Adult Day Program (MADP) about the importance of Oral Health integration into the medical care system and the need to push for legislation that would authorize dental therapists to practice in the state. This health center sees community members that range in age from 18 all the way up to 100. MADP's parent organization, Massachusetts Senior Care Association, is a supporting member of a coalition to promote dental therapy in the state. 

Another fantastic event is in the books, and we have an eager eye looking ahead at many more to come!

DAAHR Forum on ACOs and Your Healthcare - January 23, 2018

Last week, Health Care For All staff members attended the Disability Advocates Advancing our Healthcare Rights (DAAHR) meeting, Discussions regarding MassHealth restructuring, healthcare through Accountable Care Organizations, and what to expect from Washington in the future were all thought provoking and engaging. The team is looking forward to helping as many people as possible with health care coverage in the future!

Families USA Health Action 2018 - January 24, 2018

HCFA's Oral Health Integration Manager, Neetu Singh, was in Washington DC recently attending the Families USA pre-conference. The focus of this year's conference was to strengthen oral health coverage and improve advocacy amongst many different communities. Highlights included a look at national and state level advocacy efforts to improve oral health, sharing federal policy developments, and the opportunity for all oral health advocates in attendance to engage with policy makers. The conference was a great opportunity in our nation's capital to hear the latest on oral health policy improvements. 

Oral Health Team Connects at Yankee Dental - January 25-27, 2018

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This week, the Oral Health team attended the Yankee Dental Conference with the Better Oral Health Massachusetts Coalition (BOHMAC). Yankee Dental is New England’s largest meeting for professionals seeking the highest quality dental continuing education, as well as dental products, services, and resources. The HCFA/BOHMAC booth actively pursued discussions with attendees regarding the importance of integrating oral health into the medical care system, community water fluoridation, and restoring oral health benefits for adults. An annual success, this year’s event was no different as we reached out to as many of the 27,000 dental professionals at Yankee Dental working to improve oral health care as possible. 

HCFA Attends Southeast Asian Coalition Grassroots Speaker Series Kickoff - January 24, 2018

On Tuesday, January 23, members of the HCFA Oral Health team worked to help promote cultural mental health and wellness with Anh Vu Sawyer, founder and director of the Southeast Asian Coalition. The night's event, hosted by Third Sector New England, was an opportunity for our team to hear Anh Vu, a fellow OHAT member and supporter of Dental Therapists, discuss her story as a refugee and the importance of asking for forgiveness, along with giving it. A fantastic evening, the Oral Health team was honored to be in attendance for such an empowering event.

HCFA Visits Rosie's Place to Discuss Dental Therapists - January 17, 2018

Members of the HCFA Oral Health team met with community members at Rosie's Place to discuss dental therapists and pending legislation on the subject. With an eye towards making a difference throughout Massachusetts and providing increased quality care, the legislation to expand access to oral health with Dental Therapists was well received. The HCFA Oral Health team is looking forward to many more positive conversations in the future. A list of DT Legislation supporters can be seen in the image above.

MIT Sloan: Innovating Health Systems - Digital Health Transformations - November 29, 2017

Health Care For All’s (HCFA) oral health team attended a conference hosted by the MIT Sloan Initiative for Health Systems Innovation (HSI) on Wednesday, November 29. HSI seeks to combine academic and industry-based research with practical applications in order help transform health care delivery systems that produce better health outcomes, focus on overall health and are less costly. HCFA’s engagement with these ongoing efforts is important to ensure that oral health is included as part of the overall healthcare system transformations occurring in Massachusetts. 

Forsyth Institute Fall Forum – November 15, 2017

Health Care For All attended a forum held by the Forsyth Institute, titled “Innovating and the Intersection of Care and Need.” The Forsyth Institute is the leading research institute in America specializing in oral health and its impact on overall wellness. A panel of esteemed experts and oral health professionals convened for this forum to discuss the state of oral health in our society and to share some of the innovations currently underway to address oral health disparities and improve access to care for children and families across Massachusetts. More than 75 guests and 200 virtual viewers heard presentations from distinguished panelists Mary Otto, Dr. Mike Monopoli, Dr. Hugh Silk and Dr. Wenyuan Shi and from panel moderator Dr. Kerry Maguire. HCFA is proud to continue to support and partner with the Forsyth Institute to improve oral health in Massachusetts.

Visiting Dental Therapy Sites in Minnesota - November 15, 2017

Health Care For All’s Oral Health Organizer, Alexis Major, joined legislators, dental professionals, educators and other partners at the Department of Primary Dental Care at The University of Minnesota School of Dentistry, where she participated in a two-day conference and tour of dental therapy sites. Throughout the conference and tour, the guests had the opportunity to discuss how dental therapists work in the field, how they fit into various business models, their training and impact on academic institutions. This was an opportunity to learn from national experts, educators, dental therapists who provide direct patient care, and the dentists who employ these providers.

American Public Health Association Annual Meeting - November 7, 2017

Health Care For All’s Oral Health Program Manager, Dr. Neetu Singh, attended the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting and Expo — "Creating the Healthiest Nation: Climate Changes Health." Dr. Singh presented on oral health integration in Massachusetts.  

DentaQuest Oral Health 2020 National Network Gathering - October 25, 2017

Health Care For All’s oral health team attended the DentaQuest Oral Health 2020 national network gathering. This meeting had hundreds of oral health advocates from across the country to build the nationwide effort for systems and policy change to improve oral health.

Health Care For All Testifies in Support of Dental Therapists - October 23, 2017

Health Care For All testified before the Special Senate Committee on Health Care Cost Containment and Reform during a public hearing on the Senate health package (An Act furthering health empowerment and affordability by leveraging transformative health care). This major legislation affects a wide range of topics throughout the health care system. One provision of the bill would authorize dental therapists in Massachusetts. In our testimony, Health Care For All emphasized the positive impacts dental therapists would have on the Commonwealth.

Oral Health Advocacy Taskforce Submits Letter to Senate Committee on Finance in Opposition to Graham-Cassidy - September 25, 2017

The Oral Health Advocacy Taskforce submitted written comments to the Senate Committee on Finance expressing opposition to the Graham-Cassidy bill and detailing the negative consequences to oral health this bill would have both for Massachusetts and for the country at large.

Read the letter here.

Rally for Dental Therapists - September 12, 2017

Health Care For All held a rally/press event at the Massachusetts State House in support of legislation that would authorize dental therapists to practice in Massachusetts, S.1169/H.2474, An Act authorizing dental therapists to expand access to oral health. Currently, many Massachusetts residents have difficulty accessing necessary dental care, and there are major disparities in oral health based on race and income level. Authorizing dental therapists is one way to help deal with this problem.

HCFA's Executive Director, Amy Rosenthal, hosted the event and introduce the speakers.

Speakers representing a wide range of stakeholders came to explain why this legislation is so important. Several elected representatives who have long been champions of oral health shared how this legislation would benefit their constituents: State Senator Harriette Chandler, State Representative William "Smitty" Pignatelli, and Boston City Councilor Matt O'Malley all came to express their support.

Community leaders spoke on the positive impact dental therapists could have on their communities. John Robinson from the Mass Senior Action Council explained why seniors need policies that expand access to oral care, and Horace Small from the Union Of Minority Neighborhoods detailed the importance of oral health care for populations throughout Massachusetts, including communities of color and low-income communities.

We also heard from Katy Leiviska, a dental therapist from Minnesota, who came all the way to Boston to share her insight gained from working as a dental therapist. She explained how dental therapists receive the same level of education as students training to become dentists, but have a narrower scope of practice, so they can effectively perform preventative and basic restorative work while freeing up the capacity of dentists to perform procedures of higher complexity. She also explained how dental therapists tend to see a higher volume of patients on public insurance than dentists do, helping to increase access to dental care for the many Americans who rely on Medicaid.

After the rally, the Massachusetts Legislature's Joint Committee on Public Health held a public hearing on the bill. Many of the speakers from the rally also provided testimony at the hearing. This picture shows John Robinson from the Mass Senior Action Council testifying in support of S.1169/H.2474, An Act authorizing dental therapists to expand access to oral health. 

 

Coverage: 

Efforts growing to expand access to dental care in Massachusetts through new mid-level practitioner

Bill to expand access to dentistry picks up steam on Beacon Hill

Discuten proyecto de ley para mejorar acceso a la salud dental en Massachusetts

Proponents say they're closer to creating new class of dental providers

Bill Aims to Fill Gap in Dental Care​

Dental Access Expansion Hinges on Level of Supervision​

Lawmakers file bills to expand access to dental care​

Dental therapists will fill gaps in treatment

Interview with Boston Neighborhood Network News - August 30, 2017

HCFA's Oral Health Project Manager, Dr. Neetu Singh, and Shannon Wells of the Mass. League of Community Health Centers spoke on Boston Neighborhood Network News about the importance of integrating oral health care with overall health care.

Press Conference Highlighting Oral Health Integration at The Dimock Center - August 30, 2017

Health Care For All, The Dimock Center, and the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers held a press conference highlighteing the successful oral health integration program taking place at the Dimock Center and similar programs happening at other community health centers throughout the state.

MassHealth Listening Session – August 4, 2017

HCFA’s Oral Health Project Manager, Dr. Neetu Singh, testified today at the MassHealth listening session in Boston on behalf of the Oral Health Advocacy Taskforce (OHAT).  

Dr. Singh raised questions about the proposal by state MassHealth officials that could threaten dental coverage for over 140,000 low-income MassHealth members. At issue is a state plan to move these low income adults out of MassHealth, which provides a dental benefit, to ConnectorCare, a health program with no dental coverage. At a public listening session on the state’s request for a federal waiver to implement the proposal, Dr. Singh commented that many could lose their ability to access affordable oral health care. For people in ConnectorCare, dental care may be available at community health centers through the Health Safety Net program. However, the health centers have long waiting lists and many would likely end up in hospital emergency rooms, which are not equipped to provide needed dental care.

The Oral Health Advocacy Task Force will also be submitting detailed written comments on the proposal.

Coverage:

Baker seeks input on MassHealth reform

Dental Benefits Report included in State Budget - July 17, 2017

For the past decade, dental benefits for adults on MassHealth have suffered numerous cuts. Though services have been incrementally restored in recent years, a number of crucial services still remain uncovered, including periodontal services for gum disease, endodontic services (root canals) and crowns. Full adult dental benefits were last covered in 2010. 

From the beginning of 2017, the Oral Health Advocacy Task Force has been engaged in the state’s budget process and has worked with the Legislative Oral Health Caucus Co-chairs, Senator Harriett Chandler and Representative John Scibak, to advocate for the legislature and the Baker Administration to prioritize the oral and overall health of residents of the Commonwealth by supporting a language amendment that was introduced by Representative Smitty Pignatelli. This no-cost amendment directs the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services to report the following:

“(e) a schedule to include within its covered services for adults at least those federally optional services for dental care and dentures which were included in its state plan in effect on January 1, 2010 and the accompanying cost of implementation;”

We're happy to say that Governor Baker and his administration have prioritized oral health and included this language amendment in the final budget for FY2018. 

Joint Committee on Health Care Financing - July 11, 2017

Dr. Neetu Singh, the Oral Health Project Manager at Health Care For All, testified in support of Bill H.624, An Act relative to early childhood cavities. This bill would establish a pilot program to improve management of early childhood cavities among children on MassHealth. Dental decay is the most common preventable disease in children throughout the nation, affecting roughly one-third of all preschoolers and disproportionately impacting children from disadvantaged populations are the most severely impacted. This program would be partly based on a similar program at place in Boston's Children Hospital, which has proven to reduce cavities and lower overall spending on dental treatment. As Dr. Singh testified, "This model will help work towards attaining health equity between our diverse populations, particularly for our most vulnerable and underserved."

DentaQuest Regional Meeting in Pittsburgh - June 27, 2017

Dr. Neetu Singh was given the opportunity to highlight Massachusetts as a "Bright Spot" at the DentaQuest Regional Meeting in Pittsburgh on June 27, 2017. She gave a presentation that informed attendees about OHAT's engagement in the state's FY2018 budget process. This engagement involved educating legislators on oral health and advocating for them to prioritize oral health in the budget. One important policy we advocated for was the inclusion of a language amendment in the final budget that directs EOHHS to report a schedule and cost estimate for reinstating comprehensive adult dental benefits for MassHealth enrollees by March 1, 2018. This amendment was ultimately included in the final budget.

Annual Health Fair - June 15th, 2017

Alexis Major, HCFA's Oral Health Organizer and Deolinda Daveiga, HCFA's Outreach Coordinator attended an annual health fair at Rosie's Place where they spoke about health care access and the importance of oral health integration.

Oral Health Caucus - June 13th, 2017

HCFA's Oral Health Team hosted the 2nd Oral Health Caucus of the year to highlight the Oral Health Integration Project. The Caucus featured guest speaker, Dental Director of MassHealth, Dr. Donna Jones along with panelists Dr. Lisa Simon, Dr. John Fisher and Ms. Anh Vu Sawyer and Dr. Neetu Singh. Legislative oral health champions, Representative Scibak and Senator Chandler along with other legislators, providers, community organizations and oral health advocates attended.

News Coverage:

Hearing on EOHHS Office of Health Equity - June 13th, 2017

HCFA's Dr. Neetu Singh provided oral health testimony supporting H.622/S.641 An Act Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities in the Commonwealth. She stated "Over the past few decades substantial gains have been made to improve oral health in the United States and in Massachusetts. However, race and ethnicity continue to be significant determinants of oral health status - with people of color bearing a disproportionate burden of dental disease." This legislation would require EOHHS to create the Office of Health Equity to eliminate racial & ethnic health disparities and work towards achieving health equity for all residents in Massachusetts.

Forsyth Institute Gala - June 1st, 2017

HCFA's Dr. Neetu Singh and Alexis Major with Dr. David Satcher at the Forsyth Institute's 4th Annual "A Taste & A Toast to Good Health". Dr. Satcher received the Forsyth Icon Award at this event for having served as the 16th U.S. Surgeon General and authoring the first report on oral health in America which detailed the full meaning of oral health and its importance to general health and well-being.

Recruitment For Berkshire and/or Franklin Counties Focus Group - May 24th, 2017

Tobacco Free Mass Lobby Day - May 18th, 2017

Alexis and Neetu from HCFA's Oral Health team joined legislators and advocates at the Free Tobacco MA Lobby day in support of House Bill #2864 and Senate Bill #1218, which would raise the age of sale for tobacco from 18 to 21. The bill will reduce tobacco use and nicotine addiction among youth, and will improve health, save lives, and reduce healthcare costs. 

National Oral Health Conference - April 24-26th, 2017

Dr. Neetu Singh and Oral Health Organizer, Alexis Major, joined oral health educators to address the importance of oral integration in Alburque, New Mexico during the National Oral Health Conference. Given the recent disastrous outcome of the repeal effort in the House, elevating oral health is vital!

Advocates Aim To Boost Dental Coverage, BNN News  - April 21st, 2017

HCFA's Oral Health Project Manager, Neetu Singh, spoke to BNN News on April 21, 2017 about the work HCFA is leading to restore coverage of periodontal treatment for people enrolled in MassHealth.

Thank you from the Oral Health Integration Project (OHIP) - April 6th, 2017

On behalf of the Oral Health Integration Project, thank you! A few weeks ago and with your help, we were fortunate enough to conduct two successful oral health focus groups for residents residing in Central and Western, Mass. As you know, these focus groups were and will remain to be an essential part of Health Care For All's assessment of systematic barriers to oral health services in Massachusetts, and because of your support and willingness to spread the word, we had the opportunity to hear from caring, compassionate constituents. So again, thank you!

Let's continue to keep up the good work and create a better health care system in Massachusetts!

We highly appreciate the support of the Southeast Asian Coalition and Anh Sawyer, Executive Director, for hosting us and connecting us to the community.

Legislative Oral Health Caucus - March 21st, 2017

HCFA’s Dr. Neetu Singh presented at the Legislative Oral Health Caucus on behalf of the Oral Health Advocacy Taskforce (OHAT) on March 21, 2017. The slide presentation, supporting Health Policy Commission (HPC) policy brief and Periodontal Treatment Fact Sheet can be found here.

2017-2018 OHAT Key Legislation

  • Restore MassHealth Adult Dental Benefits: HD 1592 (Rep. Scibak & Sen. Chandler): An Act Relative to the Restoration of MassHealth Adult Dental Benefits will restore full MassHealth adult dental benefits to more than 800,000 individuals, including 120,000 seniors and 180,000 people living with disabilities. Left untreated, dental disease can lead to systemic infection, hospitalization, and the worsening of other medical conditions. Oral health is an integral part of overall health and should be included in health coverage.

Other Priority Legislation

  • Improve the Children’s Medical Security Program (CMSP): HD 2594/SD 467 (Rep. Malia & Sen. DiDomenico)

  • Pilot a Risk-Based Oral Health Model Statewide for Children on MassHealth: HD 1597/SD 941 (Rep. Scibak & Sen. Chandler)

  • Raising the Minimum Legal Age to 21 for the Sale of All Tobacco Products: HD 3668/SD 1353 (Rep. McMurtry & Sen. Lewis)

Full 2017-2018 OHAT Legislative Priorities can be found here