L.A. Care Awards $1.5 Million to Increase Number of Dental Professionals In Under-Resourced Communities Across Los Angeles County

Fifteen Grants Will Provide Care for More Than 10,600 New Dental Patients 

LOS ANGELES – Researchers say poor oral health is a symbol of social inequity in the United States. People are more likely to have poor oral health in this country if they are low-income, uninsured, or people of color. Many of these people live in what are known as “dental deserts,” areas where there are already a shortage of dentists. L.A. Care Health Plan has been working to address this problem, and today is proud to announce it has awarded a total of $1.5 million to 15 facilities in its latest round of Oral Health Initiative grants.

“Research shows that poor oral health can contribute to a number of diseases and might even be a sign of chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes,” said John Baackes, L.A. Care CEO. “L.A. Care launched its Oral Health Initiative to increase access to dental care in under-resourced communities, which will help reduce the risk of life-threatening disease among our members.”

The grant funding will be used to increase the number of dental professionals, enhance and increase clinical infrastructure, and support early and long-term dental care for Medi-Cal members and other community members living in dental deserts.

San Fernando Community Health Center is among the awardees, and it plans to use the grant funding to ensure kindergarten oral health screenings are completed, properly documented, and submitted to the child’s school.

“We are excited to establish dental care homes for these young children to help them begin a lifetime of oral health care management,” said Audrey Simons, CEO of San Fernando Community Health Center. “We will be providing vital dental education on proper oral hygiene and on the importance of good nutrition for strong and healthy teeth, all while establishing trust between the children and the dental professionals who will care for them.”

Another awardee, Via Care Community Health Center, will be using the grant funding to increase staffing and expand service hours.

“The grant will ensure that oral health services are integrated into patient care at Via Care for the entire family, through same-day medical and dental services, and adding Saturday hours for those patients unable to see a dentist on weekdays due to work or school," said Deborah Villar, CEO of Via Care Community Health Center. "This grant project will ensure improved oral health care for our entire community, especially children ages 0-5.“

This is L.A. Care’s 14th round of Oral Health Initiative grants, and they exemplify the health plan’s commitment to health equity, which means everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. Each of the 15 awardees in this round will receive up to $125,000. The funding will help to serve more than 10,600 new dental patients.

The 15 awardees are (areas served):

  • Children’s Dental Health Clinic (Long Beach)
  • Community Medical Wellness Centers (Long Beach)
  • Eisner Health (Hollywood, Wilshire, Central L.A., Glendale)
  • Family Health Care Centers (East L.A., Whittier, Highland Park)
  • Garfield Health Center (Pomona, El Monte, Rowland Heights)
  • Northeast Valley Health Corporation (Van Nuys, Pacoima, West Hills, North Hills, Arleta, Sepulveda, Santa Clarita)
  • San Fernando Community Health Center (Van Nuys, Pacoima, West Hills, North Hills, Arleta, Sepulveda, Santa Clarita)
  • South Central Family Health Center (Compton, Inglewood, Watts, Gardena, Hawthorne, Downey, South Gate, Bellflower, Lakewood, East L.A., Whittier, Highland Park
  • St. John’s Community Health (Compton, Inglewood, Watts, Gardena, Hawthorne)
  • T.H.E. Health and Wellness Centers (Compton, Inglewood, Watts, Gardena, Hawthorne
  • Venice Family Clinic (Culver City, Venice Santa Monica, Malibu, Westchester, Torrance, San Pedro, Carson, Wilmington)
  • Via Care (Downey, South Gate, Bellflower, Lakewood, East L.A., Whittier, Highland Park)
  • Westside Family Health Center (Culver City, Venice, Santa Monica, Malibu, Westchester)
  • White Memorial Community Health Center (East L.A., Whittier, Highland Park)
  • Wilmington Community Clinic (Torrance, San Pedro, Carson, Wilmington)

Since 2003, L.A. Care has awarded $17.85 million for 185 projects that provide oral health infrastructure, education, prevention and treatment services to low-income communities.