ANNAPOLIS — REACH PLUS, an innovative program funded through a $200,000 grant from the Maryland Community Health Resources Commission, is helping low-income Anne Arundel County adults who need emergency dental services.
The Anne Arundel County Department of Health, Anne Arundel Medical Center, University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center and community dental providers have partnered in the REACH PLUS program to divert residents requiring dental services from hospital emergency departments to free or low-cost community dental resources.
“The Commission is thrilled to support this innovative project in Anne Arundel County that will expand access to dental care services,” said Mark Luckner, executive director, Maryland Community Health Resources Commission (CHRC). “This program will help reduce avoidable hospital utilization and has the potential to be replicated in other areas of the state.”
The grant to the Department of Health is one of 36 grants for a total of $7.2 million awarded by the CHRC to expand access to dental services. These projects have collectively served more than 54,000 Maryland residents.
In 2016, there were more than 3,000 dental-related visits to Anne Arundel County emergency departments with associated costs of almost $1 million. Maryland Medicaid does not include an adult dental benefit, and many patients find the cost of private dental insurance and self-pay dental fees financially out of reach. Seniors also experience a gap in accessing health care services, as Medicare does not include a dental benefit.
“Oral health impacts a person’s overall well-being, and dental pain can negatively affect one’s work, family and mental health. Untreated dental conditions can lead to avoidable use of pain medications and increased risk of substance misuse,” said Anne Arundel County Acting Health Officer Frances Phillips. “The Department of Health appreciates the support provided by the CHRC, local hospitals and dental health providers.”
Since REACH PLUS began in October 2017, the Department of Health has received more than 70 referrals. The Department’s dental staff coordinates emergency dental care, provide oral health education, and make referrals to other health care services.
“I was provided with emergency relief and it helped me resume my normal work routine and get off pain medication. Great program by Department of Health! I can smile again,” Michael, a REACH PLUS participant said.
REACH PLUS is interested in expanding the program and is seeking more dentists who will provide discounted preventive care for eligible County residents. For more information about REACH PLUS, call 410-222-3090.