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UMD and Catholic Charities Join Forces to Deliver $1 Million in Free Dental Care

State of the Art Dental and Healthcare Services for 1,000 Patients

COLLEGE PARK, Md., Sept. 5, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The University of Maryland (UMD) Terrapins' basketball court at the XFINITY Center (formerly the Comcast Center), will transform into a mobile dental clinic with 100 dental chairs, to provide $1 million of free dental care to more than 1,000 underserved, uninsured, and underinsured adults. The dental clinic is part of the two-day Mid-Maryland Mission of Mercy and Health Equity Festival, sponsored by the University of Maryland School of Public Health's Center for Health Equity (M-CHE) (a NIH-NIMHD Center of Excellence on Race, Ethnicity and Disparities Research), Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, the Maryland State Dental Association, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Kaiser Permanente, Cigna and DentaQuest.

University of Maryland, College Park Logo.

Since the death of Deamonte Driver, a 12-year-old boy from Prince George's County who died in 2007 from an untreated dental infection, the state of Maryland has seen improvements in its oral health programs and policies. There remains a great need for dental services, however, especially for adults. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reports that for 2012 almost 20 percent of Maryland residents surveyed had not visited a dentist within the past five years and seven percent had not visited a dentist in more than five years.

On September 5 and 6, approximately 800 volunteers, including licensed dentists, hygienists, and dental assistants, will provide state of the art dental services, including cleanings, fillings, extractions, root canals and oral hygiene education.

"The Maryland Center for Health Equity's goal for this event is not only to serve people in need of emergency dental care but also to connect people in great need to quality healthcare.  Ultimately, the aim is to empower people to take control of their own health," said Professor Stephen B. Thomas, from the School of Public Health Department of Health Services Administration and Founding Director of the Maryland Center for Health Equity, a NIH Center of Excellence funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.  The event also helps to achieve the Federal Healthy People 2020's oral health objectives to increase awareness of the importance of oral health to overall health and well-being, and reduce disparities in access to effective preventive and dental treatment services.

This is the first time that Catholic Charities is convening a Mission of Mercy (MOM) project on a university campus with an academic research partner, and adding a health promotion component that addresses the broader physical and social determinants of health. "I'm so excited to see so many individuals from our community receive the gift of free dental care. All of this could not take place without the support of so many, especially our local dentists and dental hygienists," said Monsignor John Enzler of Catholic Charities. "This will be a remarkable experience for the givers and receivers. Catholic Charities is thrilled to be a part of the Mission of Mercy & Health Equity Festival."

While the Affordable Care Act provides dental coverage for children and for pregnant women in Maryland, most adults still lack dental coverage. In Prince George's County, a vast number of these adults are low-income, immigrants, African-American or Hispanic. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, although most oral diseases are preventable, many individuals do not seek dental services for reasons such as: cost, lack of dental insurance, lack of access to dental services, fear of dental procedures or lack of awareness.

"Maryland State Dental Association (MSDA), through its many volunteer endeavors, recognizes a greater need for access to care issues for many of the underserved in our communities. Maryland has been recognized as a leader in providing access to care to the needy. Our volunteer dentists spend huge resources to put on our Mission of Mercy events throughout the state," said Dr. Tristam Kruger, Editor of the Journal of the Maryland State Dental Association. "Each MOM event is staffed with caring doctors and others who treat the many thousands of people who come seeking care at no costs to the patient. Donated Dental Services is another way MSDA volunteer dentists treat patients for no charge – right in the volunteer dentist's office. There are no perfect solutions to access to care issues, but Maryland dentists (and surrounding jurisdictions) are addressing the problems and getting care to those who need it most," he said.

"The Mission of Mercy is an opportunity to promote inter-institutional collaboration and inter-professional education," said Professor Jane E. Clark, Dean of the School of Public Health. "This event will advance a better state of health by providing access to high-quality dental care and health promotion services for Maryland's vulnerable populations," she said. 

The Health Equity Festival represents a collaborative effort of academic, state and county agencies, area hospitals, healthcare facilities, managed care and community-based organizations that will offer the following additional services:

  • Health promotion and disease prevention screenings (hepatitis C, diabetes, HIV, and vision),
  • Evidence-based chronic disease management information for people with chronic diseases,
  • Assistance in understanding and navigating the Maryland Health Connection Insurance Program,
  • Health literacy,
  • Legal assistance for medical debt, and
  • Other social and mental health service resources.

Choirs from UMD's Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center and Department of Music will also perform live singing and music throughout the day to create a gracious space designed to promote stress reduction and healing.

"In addition to the oral health challenges, many of the individuals that will receive care also face other social, economic, and health issues that may include diabetes, hypertension, and asthma.  We want to make sure that we are addressing some of the other diseases and issues that people may have, by offering health screenings, medical debt counseling, and other types of wraparound services," said Professor Thomas.  "And none of this would be feasible without the many volunteers and partners that have come together to make this event possible.  It is a remarkable demonstration of what we can do as a community when we advance cooperation over competition in the delivery of lifesaving health services for our most vulnerable neighbors," he said.

Care will be provided from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on a first-come, first-served basis.

"At Cigna, we are committed to improving the health and well-being of the people and communities we serve. We are proud to work together with community partners to help provide critical oral care to those in need, educate individuals about good preventive care habits and enhance their overall health," said Julia Huggins, president for Cigna in Maryland.

SiriusXM's Joe Madison will broadcast his national, daily show live from the XFINITY Center from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. EST.  The host will interview local, state, and national leaders, scientists, medical and public health professionals, academicians, dentists, patients, community advocates and others, about various dental care and health disparity issues. SiriusXM Urban View can be heard on channel 126, and through the SiriusXM Internet Radio App on smartphones and other connected devices, as well as online at siriusxm.com

Follow the Mid-Maryland Mission of Mercy & Health Equity Festival on twitter at: #umdhealthequity. For additional information, visit: http://sph.umd.edu/center/che

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SOURCE University of Maryland

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