Oral Health Foundation Announces Grants To Two Area Groups

SPRINGFIELD — The Oral Health Foundation recently announced the awarding of grants to two area initiatives. 

The foundation announced a $282,000 grant to the Springfield Oral Health Initiative (SOHI) to establish a licensed dental clinic in an elementary school-based health center in the state’s poorest neighborhood. The grant money will be used to incorporate dental services into the existing school-based health center at the German Gerena Elementary School in Springfield. The grant will be used to hire dental professionals and to buy the dental equipment necessary to perform basic preventative work on the students.

The Oral Health Foundation was established in 2000 by DSM, doing business as Delta Dental Plan of Massachusetts, to award annual grants to organizations that are working towards reducing oral health disparities in disadvantaged populations across Massachusetts.

The Springfield Oral Health Initiative is one of six new projects receiving a total of almost $900,000 in grant money this year. Ongoing program support will bring the Oral Health Foundation grant awards to nearly $1.5 million in 2004.

SOHI was selected to receive the $282,000 grant because it meets the Foundation’s goal of providing access to dental care and education about preventing dental disease to underserved populations.

“Since the closing of the last school-based dental clinics in 1989, our goal has been to resume providing dental services to the thousands of children in our school system who desperately need them,” said Deborah Burns, oral health planner for the Springfield Oral Health Initiative. “With the funding from the Oral Health Foundation, we can make this dream a reality.”

The foundation also announced the awarding of a $200,000 grant to Hillcrest Dental Care in Pittsfield, a program of Hillcrest Educational Centers Inc., to expand its treatment capacity to serve its special needs patients, including children, adolescents, and adults, as well as its MassHealth and other low-income clients without insurance.

The grant money will be used to expand treatment capacity by 75{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5}, with the addition of three new dental chairs and new specialized treatment equipment. Hillcrest Dental Care is the largest provider in the Berkshire region for dental care to MassHealth, low-income, and special needs patients. Hillcrest Dental Care currently has a caseload of 5,100 patients, of whom approximately 3,800, or 75{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5}, are special needs and low-income patients. Almost 1,500 Hillcrest Dental Care patients have no dental insurance.