Beyond the Bell employees helped The L.A. Trust distribute more than 50,000 toothbrushes during Operation Tooth Fairy in June.
Oral health leaders from government, academia, nonprofits and the healthcare industry met online at The L.A. Trust’s Oral Health Advisory Board quarterly convening June 2. Representatives from more than a dozen organizations discussed ways to help students and their families access oral health services during the COVID-19 crisis.
Maryjane Puffer, executive director of The Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health, presented an update on how the COVID-19 crisis was impacting dental care for students and communities. She outlined steps The L.A. Trust is taking during the current school closures, including the development of virtual education with upcoming videos, new referral cards for LAUSD local districts, and Operation Tooth Fairy, which raised oral health awareness and distributed more than 50,000 toothbrushes at 16 Grab and Go Food Centers in June.
Gloria E. Velasquez, organization facilitator for Los Angeles Unified’s Student Health and Human Services, outlined steps for re-opening LAUSD campuses under several models released by the Los Angeles County of Education. The models include face-to-face, distance and hybrid learning, depending on health conditions.
Budget cuts and telehealth
COVID-19 has had a major impact on state funding. Fatima Clark, senior policy and outreach associate for Children Now, noted there would be a staggering $54.3 billion budget deficit over the next two years. Among the budget changes: Delayed implementation of the CalAIM initiative; $300 million in cuts to Community Schools Grants; shift of $1.2 billion in Prop. 56 funds to support Medi-Cal; reduction of Adult Dental Benefit; and transitioning all Medi-Cal dental services to the fee-for-delivery system, eliminating voluntary dental managed care in L.A. County.
Dental care providers statewide are getting support from Sacramento as they grapple with COVID-19, according to a presentation by Stephanie Thornton, a fellow with the California Children’s Partnership. California has eased restrictions on telehealth, she noted, but the “digital divide” needs to be closed before these options can be accessed by everyone who needs them.
Lisa Nguyen, associate director, community-based clinical education at the UCLA School of Dentistry, outlined what her institution is doing to advance school-based oral health, including updates on their assessment, education and outreach programs. Nguyen also provided an update on More LA Smiles and discussed the impact of COVID-19.
The meeting ended with a recap of a proposed 2020 policy agenda for The L.A. Trust’s Oral Health Advisory Board. The agenda includes achieving 100% compliance with the Kindergarten Oral Health Assessment Mandate throughout L.A. Unified; ensuring the highest standards of care and case management; integrating teledentistry and alternative practice providers; supporting robust funding for school-based oral health; creating a centralized resource repository; and promoting the use of fluoridated water by Los Angeles Unified families.