Natasha Mehu, MACo’s Legislative Director, testified on Wednesday in support of SB 158 – Maryland Department of Health – Community Dental Clinics Grant Program. This bill creates a grant program to help counties establish affordable community dental clinics.
Poor oral health has been linked to heart disease, premature and low birth weights, and diabetes. Counties have a duty to help promote the health and well-being of their communities, but affordable dental care is very difficult for uninsured and underinsured residents to receive. Counties offer a range of public health services through local health departments and community partnerships, but SB 158 would offer another “tool in the toolbox” to help counties keep their residents safe and healthy.
SB 158 supports county efforts to provide access to oral health care and stem associated diseases by creating a grant program where counties can be awarded funds to establish free or low cost dental clinics in their communities. It is modeled after several existing successful capital grant programs such as the Community Mental Health, Addiction and Developmental Disabilities Facilities Capital Program. The funds can be used for a range of purposes to target local needs such as converting a public building into a clinic; acquiring an existing building to be used for a clinic; renovating an existing clinic; or planning, designing, and constructing a clinic. This range of options will help counties target their unique local needs.
The grant program also leverages federal and local resources and provides extra support in high poverty areas. State funds may cover up to 50% of eligible costs after all federal grants are applied and up to 75% of eligible costs for projects in areas of high poverty. Counties are able to use community development block funds as local matching funds.