NY oral health partnership to help developmentally disabled

The B. Thomas Golisano Foundation and Eastman Institute for Oral Health at the University of Rochester Medical Center are partnering to address the unmet oral health needs of people with developmental disabilities in the Rochester, NY, area.

While it is widely known that there is a critical lack of trained and experienced dental providers to work with people with developmental disabilities, no concrete data exist related to the extent and type of unmet need for the estimated 135,000 New Yorkers affected, according to the organizations.

A newly formed community task force of experts will, for the first time, engage the community and help in the process of gathering reliable data in Monroe, Livingston, Ontario, Orleans, and Wayne counties to determine the areas of significant need, clarify available resources, identify gaps and barriers for meeting needs, and develop realistic and practical recommendations to improve this complex situation.

The task force is led by Cyril Meyerowitz, DDS, director of the Eastman Institute for Oral Health, which treats hundreds of patients with developmental disabilities and is the safety-net provider for underserved populations.

Several factors contribute to the poor oral health and hygiene of people with developmental disabilities, including physical limitations, complex medical conditions, behavioral issues, and increased incidence of early decay. Other challenges arise due to access, transportation, insurance, and the small number of available dentists who can accommodate the unique needs of this population.

A project website has already been established. Family members, caregivers, group home staff, and medical and dental providers are encouraged to visit the site to provide input and join the discussion about how to break down barriers and find ways to improve oral healthcare for people with developmental disabilities in the area.

By summertime, the task force will have formed recommendations that will be used to seek support from state and federal agencies, and also lay the foundation for launching a program designed to significantly improve the oral health services available to all people with developmental disabilities.

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