Oral Health Watch (OHW) draws its strength from the diversity of its supporters and partnerships. With coalition members who represent nonprofit organizations, government agencies, health care providers, social services, and advocacy groups, OHW has helped to find common ground and opportunities to work together toward improving the health of all people in Washington State.
Many of OHW’s coalition members gathered in Olympia for its annual policy luncheon this week to discuss the 2018 Legislative session and their ongoing efforts to improve oral health and promote overall health. All attending agreed that there was much to celebrate in recent months, but plenty of work remained.
OHW luncheon keynote speaker, Rep. Marcus Riccelli (D-Spokane) spoke of how “all health starts with oral health” and that the Legislature’s passage of the capital budget will help community health centers expand dental programs for people who face barriers to accessing oral health care. Riccelli also encouraged OHW members to reach out to their representatives to find ways to work together.
“Now is the time to tackle the big issues,” Riccelli said. “We need to build on the gains we’ve made and take advantage of the momentum we’ve created.”
Jason McGill, a senior policy advisor on health in the Governor’s Office, underscored Gov. Jay Inslee’s commitment to improving population health through the state’s Healthier Washington plan.
Diane Oakes of the Arcora Foundation applauded the Legislature for approving the Oral Health Connections pilot program, which will expand the Access to Baby and Child Dentistry program for expectant mothers and people with diabetes with Apple Health coverage in three test counties.
Christina Peters of the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board hailed the passage of a bill that allows dental therapists on tribal lands. And, Vic Colman of the Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition praised Seattle’s sweetened beverage tax and statewide investments in water bottle filling stations for encouraging more children to drink tap water, instead of sodas and sports drinks.
Many OHW coalition members also looked ahead to the 2018 session and shared with the group their legislative priorities. Jon Gould of Children’s Alliance informed OHW members he and others were working with lawmakers on SB 5683 and companion bill HB 1291, which would provide affordable health care coverage for COFA migrants.
Mellani McAleenan of the Washington State Dental Association urged OHW coalition members to support SB 6549, which would expand the Access Baby and Child Dentistry program to serve children with disabilities up to age 12.
Carrie Glover of WithinReach spoke in favor of SB 6003, a bill in support of Breakfast After the Bell programs at high-needs schools. And numerous OHW coalition members expressed their support for SB 6304 and companion bill HB 2660, which would protect Apple Health Coverage for children and pregnant women.
Oral Health Watch would like to send a special thanks to Rep. Riccelli for his keynote speech and to all of the Oral Health Watch coalition members who participated in this year’s gathering: Arcora Foundation, Children’s Alliance, Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition, CHOICE Regional Health Network, Delta Dental of Washington, The Foundation for Healthy Generations, Latino Community Fund, Molina Healthcare, Northwest Kidney Centers, Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board, The Office of Governor Jay Inslee, Washington Association of Community & Migrant Health Centers, Washington Healthcare Access Alliance, Washington State Dental Association, Washington State Dental Hygienists’ Association, Washington State Department of Early Learning, Washington State Department of Health, Washington State Department of Social & Health Services, Washington State Health Care Authority, Washington State Senior Citizens’ Lobby, and WithinReach.