New law enables health workers to do more to prevent cavities and other oral disease.

SALEM, Ore—Get ready for more flossing, more education, and less cavities

On June 15th, a key dental health bill, HB 2024, passed the House floor 60:1, It had already passed the Senate floor 28:1 and passed out of both health committees unanimously.  The governor is likely to sign.

HB 2024 would allow community health workers, already a key strategy in helping low-income Oregonians access healthcare, to do more for dental health. They will get training and certification, and get paid, to provide prevention services.

“Improved dental access and prevention is the key to improved oral health,” said Mel Rader, a proponent of this bill. “This law will put more tools in the hands of community health workers to help prevent dental disease.”

HB 2024 has its roots in Portland City Club’s Children’s Dental Health Task Force, formed in the aftermath of the water fluoridation campaign with people from both sides of the issue. The report, proposed many recommendations to improve oral health. (Find it at http://www.pdxcityclub.org/dental)

Two members of the task force led efforts to pass HB 2024 and other dental related bills this session.  Kellie Barnes a prior spokesperson for Clean Water Portland, and Mel Rader ED of Upstream Public Health represented the Task Force in advocating for HB 2024.

“Our report surfaced that many solutions to improve dental access already exist,” said Barnes, a chief proponent of the bill. “We heard again and again that community members most in need of dental care want basic preventive dental services located in their communities, and delivered by folks they know and trust. HB 2024 is a positive step in reaching that goal.”

HB 2024 was supported by many organizations across a wide spectrum.

“This was truly a collaborative effort,” said, Rep. Keny-Guyer the chief sponsor of this bill. “We brought together diverse dental stakeholders with the common goal of reducing barriers to dental access and improving oral health outcomes.”

Supporting organizations include that of Upstream Public Health, Northwest Health Foundation, Native American Youth & Family Association, Oregon Health Equity Alliance, North Clackamas School District, Oregon Health Authority, dental plans, and the Oregon Dental Association.

After passage, HB 2024 directs the Oregon Health Authority to develop the rules and training necessary for community health workers. The OHA expects to complete this work by July 1, 2016.

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