Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation Awards ~$268K Grant to SBHAAR
Funding Supports New Initiative to Expand Access to Dental Care for K-12 Students
Sharon Lanier, Ph.D., executive director of the Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation, center, presents a $267,930 check to Tamara Baker, RN, MPH, executive director of the School-Based Health Alliance of Arkansas, to her left, on January 24, 2024. They are flanked by community supporters and staff members from the partner organizations.
SHERWOOD, ARK—The Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation has awarded almost $268,000 to the School-Based Health Alliance of Arkansas for a new initiative to help expand access to dental care for K-12 students in rural parts of the state.
The funding supports the state’s first school-based oral health learning collaborative. In partnership with three other government and nonprofit organizations, the SBHAAR will instruct four Arkansas school-based health centers (SBHCs) on how to start or expand their services to offer dental care to K-12 students.
School-based health centers in Arkansas currently serve about 11,000 students at 60 health centers, but only 16 SBHCs provide access to dental care. The learning collaborative is designed to increase the number of school-based dental care facilities, especially in the state’s rural areas.
“This project could result in systemic change as it provides practical learning of how to increase access to dental care in rural parts of the state that experience a shortage of dentists,” said Sharon Lanier, Ph.D., executive director of the Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation. “Many families struggle to obtain regular dental care because they must take extended time off from work and school to travel to a dental provider one or two counties away. Instead, school-based dental clinics will meet the oral health care needs of K-12 students right where they are.”
Arkansas ranks near the bottom in oral health nationwide, according to multiple surveys. Lack of access to regular, affordable dental care and oral health education are frequently identified among the main barriers. Changing the delivery of dental services, such as the SBHAAR explores with its initiative, could significantly improve the smiles of many Arkansans.
Partnering with the SBHAAR are the Arkansas Department of Health, the Arkansas Department of Education and Virginia Health Catalyst, a nonprofit organization. They will instruct the following Arkansas school-based health centers on how to start or expand their services to offer dental care to K-12 students.
- East Arkansas Family Health Service Inc. (Northeast Arkansas)
- Mainline Health Systems Inc. (Southeast Arkansas)
- Jerry “Pop” Williams Elementary (Northwest Arkansas)
- Fouke Health and Wellness Center (Southwest Arkansas)
Learning will take place via monthly webinars and capacity-building support as needed throughout 2024.
About Delta Dental of Arkansas
Delta Dental of Arkansas is the largest dental benefits provider in the state, helping more than 800,000 Arkansans keep their smiles healthy through commercial and Medicaid coverage. As a not-for-profit company, Delta Dental is committed to improving the oral health of Arkansans through the philanthropic efforts of its foundation, which has donated more than $3 million to support oral health education initiatives in the last three years. For more information, visit www.deltadentalar.com.