John Vande Wege/KPCC
A total of almost $21 million over the last year has been given to the UCLA School of Dentistry to improve dental care in underserved areas of L.A. County.
The UCLA School of Dentistry received $11 million in funding on Wednesday to improve community dental clinics throughout L.A. County. This is the second chunk of money that child advocacy group First 5 L.A. has awarded the university to put toward underserved areas from the San Fernando Valley to the South Bay.
A portion of the money will pay for upgrades and renovations at health centers—including more dental chairs and more exam room space so clinics can care for more patients capacity. Other funds pay for training for dental providers, along with efforts to ramp up community outreach to increase awareness about the importance of dental hygiene..
"Our goal, over the next five years, is to develop an integrated health-care delivery system that will provide quality, ongoing dental care to underserved young children and pregnant women in Los Angeles communities," said Dr. James J. Crall, the program director for the project and a UCLA dentistry faculty member. "We hope the Children's Dental Care Program (CDCP) will serve as a prototype for transforming the oral health care system for young children throughout Los Angeles County and beyond."
He added the CDCP will focus on children age five and under, along with pregnant women, to deliver care to avoid dental disease. Crall said the program used data mapping techniques to identify areas of L.A. where the need for dental care is greatest.
That determination was largely based on where there's a concentration of preschool age kids enrolled in Medicaid's dental program but who aren't getting care. South Los Angeles was identified as one of the areas in need of help, and area provider St. John's Well Child and Family Center received a portion of the money from First 5's initial $10 million dental donation last year.
"This funding will impact the oral health of tens of thousands of people for the foreseeable future," said No-Hee Park, dean of the UCLA School of Dentistry. "Greater access to quality oral health care must be addressed. Developing these improved delivery systems in our underserved communities is the best place to start."
Before the year is over, UCLA officials say they'll select the final clinic locations to be included in the program.