U-M to build special needs clinic with Delta Dental grant

The University of Michigan (U-M) School of Dentistry will create a clinic where special needs patients can receive care from dental and healthcare services practitioners in the same facility, thanks to a $2 million gift from the Delta Dental Foundation.

The Delta Dental of Michigan Integrated Special Care Clinic will improve healthcare access and convenience for patients with developmental disabilities, cognitive impairments, complex medical problems, significant medical limitations, veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and the vulnerable elderly, according to the university.

In addition, U-M dental, dental hygiene, and graduate students will learn how to assess and manage the needs of these patients.

The clinic's delivery model will to allow dental students, faculty, and colleagues from other U-M health science schools and colleges to provide care together. The goal of this interdisciplinary approach, believed to be the first of its kind in Michigan, is to enhance access and improve the quality of care for this special patient population.

"Appointments in our comprehensive care clinics may require two or three hours, something that can be difficult for patients with special needs," said Stephen Stefanac, DDS, U-M senior associate dean and clinical professor of dentistry. "Patients in our new clinic will be assigned to a faculty member who will expedite care with the help of an interprofessional team representing dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, and social work. Staff will be available who are experienced working with caregivers and patients with special needs. Quality care delivered with sensitivity and compassion is our primary goal."

The school provides oral healthcare to patients as a part of its dental and dental hygiene education programs. Last year, more than 130,000 patients visited the school's 14 clinics, including about 12,000 new patients seeking comprehensive dental care.

The new clinic will feature treatment rooms large enough to accommodate patients in wheelchairs, caregivers, and healthcare professionals, and two fully enclosed "quiet rooms."

The gift reinforces a new Commission on Dental Accreditation standard, which requires all graduates to be competent in assessing treatment needs and managing the oral health care of patients with special needs while collaborating with other members of the healthcare team.

Increasingly, oral healthcare will become integrated into the overall care of patients, provided by teams of health professionals, including the dental team, nurses, physicians, pharmacists, and social workers, with the common goals of providing patient-centered, holistic healthcare, school officials noted.

The gift is the largest ever awarded by the Delta Dental Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Delta Dental operations in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and North Carolina.

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