ADA supports legislation on mobile dental units, community health centers

Washington - The ADA is supporting federal legislation to expand the ways health centers are permitted to use grant funds in order to better serve underserved communities.

In a May 27 letter  to Sens. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, ADA President Daniel J. Klemmedson, D.D.S., M.D., and Executive Director Kathleen T. O'Loughlin, D.M.D., thanked the lawmakers for introducing S. 958, the Maximizing Outcomes through Better Investments in Lifesaving Equipment for Health Care Act, or MOBILE Health Care Act.

The MOBILEHealth Care Act would expand the allowable use criteria of the Health Resources & Services Administration's grant program known as Health Center Program New Access Points funding. This expansion would include part-time mobile clinics as well as the acquiring, leasing, expanding or renovating mobile medical equipment or vehicles; leasing, expanding, or renovating an existing community health center building; or constructing a new community health center building.

The purpose of Health Center Program New Access Points funding is to improve the health of the nation's underserved communities and vulnerable populations by expanding access to affordable, accessible, quality and cost-effective primary health care services, according to the Health Resources & Services Administration. The funding provides operational support for new service delivery sites for the provision of comprehensive primary health care services.

"As an organization dedicated to improving the oral health of the public, the ADA recognizes the important role that mobile dental units play in bringing care to underserved areas and populations, including children and the elderly," Drs. Klemmedson and O'Loughlin wrote. "Community-based care like mobile units and community health centers are integral to the ADA's Action for Dental Health initiative."

"This expanded flexibility would allow health centers to use grant funds in the best way possible to reach underserved communities," they added.

Drs. Klemmedson and O'Loughlin also noted that while mobile units are important for access to care, they may visit communities only at certain times, and all patients need a permanent dental home. They said the ADA recommends that the mobile units have a process in place to refer patients to a community health center or private dental office where they will receive ongoing care.

"Thank you again for your work on this important legislation. The ADA looks forward to continuing to work with you to expand access to oral health care," the letter concluded.

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