As the largest nonprofit organization dedicated to improving oral health in the state, Arcora Foundation is in a unique position to effect change. One way it does so is through targeted grants that aim to reduce health disparities by improving oral health care access for lower-income and underserved communities. Looking forward, the Foundation is taking a broader view, providing grant funding to not only increase access to dental care but also operational funding to test innovative oral health delivery strategies and address social determinants of health. Oral Health Watch sat with Chad Lennox, Director of Operations, Finance and Clinic Access at Arcora Foundation, to discuss the Foundation’s role in supporting efforts to reduce health disparities in our state through better access to preventive oral health care and serving as a thought leader in health care policy through its Transformation Grants.
OHW: Thank you for chatting with us, Chad. Arcora Foundation focuses its efforts on improving the overall health in Washington state through good oral health. How did that come to be?
Chad: Arcora Foundation was founded and is fully funded by Delta Dental of Washington, the state’s largest dental benefits company. Delta Dental of Washington is committed to helping create a future where every person in our state can enjoy the benefits of good oral health and Arcora Foundation works with Delta Dental of Washington toward that shared vision.
It’s really about being invested in the community and building partnerships to ensure long-term success and to meet the oral health needs of the population.
– Chad Lennox, Arcora Foundation
OHW: Are there other grant sources out there that fund oral health capital projects? If so, how is support from Arcora Foundation different?
Chad: There are some state and federal money to help fund capital expansion, including $16.5 million from the supplemental Capital Budget that the Legislature passed in March to help fund 23 oral health-focused projects throughout the state. At times, additional funding from Arcora Foundation and our partners is essential to close the gap between the state capital dollars and the total project cost. Arcora Foundation support also has helped lesser-known projects get the help they need, especially in rural areas where funding isn’t readily available. Our financing also can be a signal to other agencies and nonprofit organizations that this a good project with strong support from the community.
OHW: What type of grant support does the Arcora Foundation offer?
Chad: Arcora Foundation support has included capital construction grants to expand capacity and start-up Access to Baby and Child Dentistry grants to ensure young children from all four corners of the state have a healthy start in life. Since 2001, Arcora has given an estimated $15 million in grants to help expand oral health care access for people who have traditionally faced barriers to care including those with Apple Health coverage and those who live in underserved communities.
OHW: Can you talk a little bit more about Arcora Foundation grants?
Chad: Absolutely. Much of Arcora Foundation’s grant focus has been on helping people who experience difficulty accessing oral health care and supporting projects that will meet the community’s needs long term. For example, Arcora Foundation recently provided $250,000 in grant funding to Jefferson Healthcare to help establish its Rural Health Center dental clinic. The clinic is expected to serve about 3,000 lower-income children and adults annually and help ensure people won’t have to travel outside of Jefferson County to access care.
OHW: That sounds incredible. Aside from backing projects that increase capacity what else does Arcora Foundation hope to achieve with its grants?
Chad: Arcora Foundation also works with communities to transform health systems, support innovative projects and explore new approaches to delivering oral health care. One example is our partnership in Spokane with Providence Health Care. Funding from Arcora Foundation, along with a significant contribution from Delta Dental of Washington, will help support Providence’s Spokane Dental Residency Program and focus on medically complex patients – many of whom require good oral health before receiving medical care. Keeping infections at bay is an integral part of treating patients with a weakened immune system, and studies show that oral bacteria can lead to infections in other parts of the body. It is more than just access; it’s testing theories to transform our health system so that no one is left behind.
OHW: It sounds as if Arcora Foundation’s endeavors extend beyond just adding more dental chairs?
Chad: That’s precisely so. The money itself is just a portion of what Arcora Foundation does to help reduce oral health disparities. Along with the grant, we help with leadership development and provide technical assistance for existing clinics to become more efficient or maximize their space because we want to make sure the clinics that get our financial support are successful. It’s really about being invested in the community and building partnerships to ensure long-term success and to meet the oral health needs of the population.
OHW: Through its support of the Access to Baby & Child Dentistry Program, Arcora Foundation has helped make Washington state a leader in providing dental care for low-income young children. What does Arcora Foundation hope to achieve a decade from now or beyond?
Chad: The hope is that the state and other funders will continue to see the value in investing in oral health, and at the same time, support proven and effective ways to reduce disparities and ensure better oral health care for all.
OHW: And the capital investments from the state is a part of that?
Chad: That’s correct. There’s no way that Arcora Foundation can do it alone. The state’s investment in expanding capacity to address unmet needs shows that there’s a huge demand for capital investment. It’s a positive sign that others are providing funding.
OHW: Thank you for your time, Chad. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Chad: The next round of letters of inquiry for Arcora Foundation Transformation Grants are due January 2, 2019. We are eager to work with community partners to achieve health equity.