Under a new law passed Aug. 9, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services and the dental community will develop and promote dental homes for children covered under CHIP, All Kids and Medicaid programs. This law is a key initiative of the Bridge to Healthy Smiles Coalition:
Dental home initiative. The Department, in cooperation with the dental community and other affected organizations such as Head Start, shall work to develop and promote the concept of a dental home for children covered under this Act. Included in this dental home outreach should be an effort to ensure an ongoing relationship between the patient and the dentist with an effort to provide comprehensive, coordinated, oral health care so that all children covered under this Act have access to preventative and restorative oral health care.
The law builds on a national campaign by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry to address the dental needs of children by creating partnerships with dentists and related organizations. Dentists will collaborate to deliver comprehensive, coordinated and family-centered preventive and restorative oral health care services.
The Bridge to Healthy Smiles coalition has been successful in gaining the attention of state legislators and spearheaded the passage of legislation that will improve access to oral health throughout Illinois. BTHS established a process to award grants for dental clinic development and secured $2 million in state funds and $1 million in Cook County funds to open dental clinics in underserved areas.
Other legislation offers oral healthcare providers incentives to treat the underserved. These include a student loan compensation program and deferred compensation program, and a policy change that allows dentists to volunteer at clinics without being registered with Medicaid. BTHS has had much success with coalition members and continues to work in Cook County.