The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has awarded about $85.3 million to nearly 300 government-funded health centers to expand their oral health service capacity through new and enhanced infrastructure.
This funding marks the first time the administration has given grants to pay solely for oral health infrastructure, according to HHS Secretary Alex Azar.
"They will support better access to oral health services in communities across the country, including underserved urban and rural areas," Azar noted in an HRSA statement.
Maximum award amounts were $300,000 each and will be used to fund physical and organizational infrastructure improvements at health centers. The awards may be used for the following:
- Renovate and modernize existing facilities
- Purchase and install dental and radiology equipment
- Purchase mobile dental units to provide better access to oral healthcare in hard-to-reach communities
- Increase oral health integration through training and consultation
The funding will help centers tackle limitations, such as outdated equipment and insufficient space, which will create better access to care for individuals across the country, stated Acting HRSA Administrator Tom Engels.
"Access to high-quality, integrated oral healthcare is essential to the early detection of oral diseases, which are critical to preventing future, often costly, health issues," Engels said.
Currently, approximately 1,400 health centers operate about 12,000 service delivery sites in the U.S. In 2018, HRSA-funded health centers served more than 6.4 million dental patients, a 13% increase from 2016, and provided more than 16.5 million dental visits.
The full list of award recipients is available on the HRSA website.