Two Denver-based organizations serving people transitioning out of or experiencing homelessness are among two dozen that have received funds from the Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation to help close a health gap.
In a statement Wednesday, the foundation said it was providing a total of $3.4 million over three years to 29 Colorado nonprofits. The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and Mercy Housing, which serves people who may have experienced homelessness in the past or struggled to find housing, stood out among the many clinics and schools that received funds. Fourteen recipients are in urban areas, 11 are in rural areas and four operate statewide.
Marybeth Goodwin, senior program officer for the Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation, said the homelessness coalition was taking on a challenge.
“Establishing a dental home looks quite different for this patient population as individuals are transient, may have forgone dental care for several years and are experiencing significant, multiple health issues,” Goodwin said.
Cathy Alderman, the coalition’s vice president for communications and public policy, said the Delta funding would be used in part to buy a mobile clinic. The coalition has two traditional clinics. When the second opened in 2014 at its Stout Street location, the coalition had considered closing the older clinic but found demand was too high, Alderman said.
“Dental health and oral health is really so critical to so many other aspects of health,” she said.
Delta’s Goodwin said Mercy would be piloting a program using health navigators to bring oral health screenings, education and access to residents at complexes in Commerce City and Denver.
“Mercy shared with us that their residents experience significant barriers to accessing dental care as so many are challenged daily to meet basic needs for themselves and their families,” Goodwin said. “By bringing oral health services to residents onsite, Mercy will be able to further enrich the healthy community they provide and connect residents to a long-term, dental home.”
Allison Cusick, executive director of Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation, quoted the Colorado Health Institute as saying just 63 percent of low-income Coloradans report good physical and oral health.
“Thousands of Coloradans live in dental health professional shortage areas,” Cusick said in a statement. “Disparities like these result in oral health inequities. By funding innovative projects designed to improve community oral health, we will better understand what Coloradans need to be healthy and help achieve the foundation’s mission of advancing oral health equity.”