The New York University College of Dentistry launched the VETSmile/Veterans Oral Care Access Resource pilot program on Nov. 8 - just ahead of this year's Veterans Day holiday.
VETSmile is a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Care and Payment Innovation collaboration with community dental care providers to enhance veterans' access to free and discounted dental services, according to the VA. The pilot program began on July 1 in New York with NYU College of Dentistry in close collaboration with VA New York Harbor Healthcare System, and in New Jersey, through the Zufall Health Center, CompleteCare and Rutgers School of Dental Medicine. VETSmile will continue to expand nationally over the next five years. The ADA is working closely with the VA Center for Care and Payment Innovation to advise on opportunities to expand and publicize the program.
"VETSmile is an opportunity for us to bridge the gap in veterans' access to continuous, accessible and affordable oral care, which is crucial for their overall wellbeing," said Roshni Ghosh, M.D., executive director of the Center for Care and Payment Innovation. "The Veterans Health Administration's Center for Care and Payment Innovation plans to rapidly accelerate efforts to broaden VETSmile dental care partnerships in additional states after implementation at initial sites."
NYU said it expects the VETSmile/Veterans Oral Care Access Resource, or VOCARE, to treat 5,000 veterans in the first year, with a goal of providing between 6,000 and 7,500 patient visits in future years. Enrollment in the program will be based on referrals received from the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System.
"Increasing access to comprehensive, timely, holistic dental care is critical for achieving health equity, especially for populations like our veterans that face barriers to receiving care," said Charles N. Bertolami, D.D.S., DMedSc, the Herman Robert Fox Dean of NYU Dentistry.
In addition to Drs. Ghosh and Bertolami, speakers included NYU President Andrew Hamilton, Martina Parauda, director of VA New York Harbor Healthcare System, Michael O'Connor, executive vice dean of NYU College of Dentistry and director of the VOCARE/VETSmile program, and several veterans enrolled in the program.
Ray Leonard, a veteran and cancer survivor, gave a pre-recorded message sharing how he has personally benefitted from the program.
For more information on VETSmile, visit the Veterans Health Administration's Center for Care and Payment Innovation website.