Kentucky Oral Health Coalition members and oral health stakeholders from across the state convened virtually for the first KOHC quarterly meeting of 2021 on Friday, March 26. We kicked off the meeting with a message from our new steering committee chair, Dr. Stephanie Poynter.

Mahak Kalra, Chief Policy Officer at Kentucky Youth Advocates (KYA), presented updates on legislative and budget policies of interest to KOHC members as the 2021 legislative session wraps up. She highlighted budget wins including:

  • Sustained investments in:
    • School-based health and mental health providers
    • Family Resources and Youth Service Centers (FRYSCs)
    • Health Access Nurturing Development Services (HANDS)
  • Increased funding for:
    • Medicaid and Kentucky Children’s Health Insurance Program (KCHIP)

KOHC also supported maintaining community water fluoridation programs in Kentucky, regulations expanding the use of telehealth, and the establishment of the Commission on Race and Access to Opportunity.

Jennifer Hasch outlined the federal advocacy efforts of the Oral Health Progress and Equity Network (OPEN) during their Hill Day on February 11th. She discussed the federal policy priorities including:

  • Medicare Dental Benefit Act of 2021
  • Ensuring Kids Have Access to Medically Necessary Dental Care Act
  • Mothers and Offspring Mortality and Morbidity Act
  • Dental Care for Veterans Act
  • Increased CDC funding.

We heard from Jeff Allen, President of the Kentucky Board of Dentistry, and Dr. Julie McKee, Kentucky State Dental Director, about the recent emergency regulation allowing qualified dentists and dental hygienists to administer COVID-19 vaccines. They each discussed the importance of dental professionals helping fight the COVID-19 pandemic and leveraging the opportunity to be trained in vaccine administration during this time.

Members of the KOHC steering committee – Dr. Justin Whitney, Dr. Pam Stein VanArsdall, Leah Smothers, and Jennifer Hasch – provided insight into the world of dentistry one year after the onset of COVID-19. We heard about current procedures and protocols at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry and the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry, as well as updates around public health dental hygiene and school-based programming during the pandemic. Each program emphasized the lessons learned during the past year and how their dental practice will improve moving forward.

Alicia Whatley, Policy and Advocacy Analyst at KYA discussed the projects and initiatives that KOHC will be prioritizing during 2021, including:

Alicia Whatley discussed the upcoming events during Child Abuse Prevention Month in April including the launch of an online toolkit for health professionals to recognize and report child abuse to keep kids safe and  announced an upcoming training on Pediatric Abusive Head Trauma for oral health professionals on April 9. Alicia Whatley also discussed the sustainability and funding for the Coalition, emphasizing the heavy reliance on grant funding and ended with a call to action for members to continue engaging with the Coalition by renewing their membership and helping recruit new members.

To wrap up the meeting, we heard from Jennifer Hancock, President of Volunteers of America Mid-States, about a new oral health partnership in Southeastern Kentucky aiming to bring oral health awareness, increase literacy, and ensure quality care to pregnant and postpartum women working to overcome substance use disorder.

More information about the meeting topics can be found on the PowerPoint slides.