In the Spotlight:

The Cross-RHEC Oral Health Workgroup Announces Its Oral Health Equity Hero Award Recipient

Becca Matusovich was named as the 2017 Cross-RHEC Oral Health Equity Award recipient. The award recognizes individuals and/or organizations that support community efforts to promote oral health equity and eliminate oral health disparities.

Ms. Matusovich is a Policy Associate at the Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy within the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service, and she coordinates the SmilePartners dental access initiative in Maine. SmilePartners, launched as a pilot program to address the lack of access to dental care, allows Ms. Matusovich to focus on something of great importance to her: addressing oral health disparities by focusing on systemic solutions that connect economic well-being, social supports, community engagement, and public health.

Dental disease often can result in costly emergency room visits and lost wages in Maine. To address this, SmilePartners was formed in 2013 as a dental access workgroup under the Greater Portland Refugee and Immigrant Health Collaborative to provide affordable restorative and dental care to the immigrant/refugee community. The pilot program was funded by Northeast Delta Dental and the Cumberland District Public Health Council.

To promote oral health equity, SmilePartners provides oral health literacy education to participants and relies on community health worker (CHW) support its implementation. Participants receive dental care services on a sliding fee scale. The successes of the pilot program include an 80% completion rate and a 97% appointment adherence, with 80% of participants planning to continue preventive appointments.

The workgroup currently is creating a financial model that will ensure the program’s sustainability, and it plans to launch another cohort in summer of 2017. SmilePartners will continue to work with refugees and immigrants and is planning to treat young adults aging out of foster care.