Dentists Partnership Of Michigans Calhoun County A Care Model For Uninsured Populations
Author: Raymond J. Higbea, Charles H. Palumbo, Samantha A. Pearl, Mary Jo Byrne, Jill Wise
Community leaders in Calhoun County, Michigan, identified access to dental care as an acute local need and in early 2007 organized Calhoun County Dentists’ Partnership. A group of stakeholders developed a program centered on local dentists who donated a designated number of office visits per month to care for uninsured county residents. Residents enrolled in the program were required to attend an oral health class; receive a dental screening, cleaning, and dental x-rays by a dental hygienist; and complete a designated number of hours of community service before seeing a dentist. Since the program’s 2007 inception, approximately 4,000 people have received dental services valued at approximately $510,000. In turn, program participants provided more than 57,000 hours of community service. The program is credited with reducing the number of patients presenting to a local hospital emergency department for dental pain by 70 percent between 2006 and 2012. Similar programs are now under way in thirteen other communities in the Midwest, which shows that such local initiatives, volunteerism, and community organization can address dental care access needs.