Letter from the Director

Dear Colleague:

I am pleased to report that community water fluoridation will be reinstated in Snowmass and that the citizens of Hayden voted to keep their water supply fluoridated. The efforts of community residents with the support of the Colorado Community Water Fluoridation Rapid Response Team continue to demonstrate that we are creating a winning formula here in Colorado! I was pleased to share our process and impact as a panelist at the American Dental Association’s 70th Anniversary of Fluoride Symposium in Chicago, and the American Fluoridation Society is looking to learn more so they can replicate this process in other states.

However, there are some clouds on the horizon for oral health. Despite a healthy economy, Medicaid dental rates may be facing a 1% decrease. Because of the provisions of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), funds are set to be returned to taxpayers rather than remaining in the general fund. This means downward pressure on the state budget and hence provider rates. One way to alleviate this pressure is for the Hospital Provider Fee to become an enterprise fund, thus exempting those revenues from the TABOR calculation. We don’t have college tuition payments go into the general fund, they go directly to supporting the college system. It makes perfect sense that the hospital provider fee is an enterprise fund as the revenues are specifically designed to support hospital reimbursements. If the hospital provider fee is removed from the TABOR calculation, then less funds will be returned to taxpayers and available for important state function, including Medicaid dental services reimbursement! Expect to hear more from us as the legislature begins in January and you can be sure OHCO is working on alternative strategies to maintain the gains we have made.

OHCO also is leading an effort to explore adding a dental benefit for pregnant women on the Children’s Health Plan Plus (CHP+). We have been researching the issue with a number of our network partners and have several critical meetings in the coming weeks do decide on a course of action. 

Lastly, I again want to congratulate our 2015 Oral Health Champions!  You can learn more about them and OHCO’s Annual Meeting in this newsletter.

Wishing all of you a happy holiday season and we thank you for your support. Don’t forget us on Colorado Gives Day!
Deborah L. Foote, MPA
Executive Director
Oral Health Colorado
Colorado Gives Day
Remember to support OHCO next Tuesday, December 8, on Colorado Gives Day! Together with our coalition of partners, OHCO has worked to pass important legislation to improve oral health for all Coloradans, especially our children. Now, we are leveraging our relationships to build public will for oral health across Colorado. At OHCO, we want to encourage awareness that oral health is a crucial part of overall health and well-being. We encourage you to donate and help support these efforts!
2015 Oral Health Champions
Four individuals were recognized by OHCO as 2015 Oral Health Champions for their efforts to improve oral health in Colorado. Representative Joann Ginal was named the 2015 Legislative Oral Health Champion for her sponsorship and support of legislation that will improve oral health in Colorado. Diane Brunson received the Lifetime Oral Health Champion award for being one of the first who believed in the importance of an oral health coalition, and for being there every step of the way, most recently serving as our Board Chair. Dr. Karino Redko was recognized as an Oral Health Champion for her tireless efforts to retain community water fluoridation for the residents of Snowmass. Linda Reiner, the Vice President of Caring for Colorado, was recognized for her leadership in several statewide community initiatives that directly impact the health of Coloradans. 
OHCO Receives Grant from Colorado Health Foundation
OHCO is pleased to report that we have received funding from the Colorado Health Foundation to build rural leadership and enhance consumer voices to maintain and improve the state’s oral health policies. The $30,000 award will allow OHCO to partner with the Interaction Institute for Social Change to bring its Facilitative Leadership for Social Change workshops to Colorado. Five, two-day workshops designed to build oral health leadership and advocacy capacity in rural Colorado will be offered by OHCO.
Improving the Oral Health of Seniors
Patrick Finnerty, DentaQuest Foundation’s Senior Advisor for Oral Health Programs, was the keynote speaker at OHCO’s recent Annual Meeting and spoke on the importance of improving oral health care for adults.
Finnerty discussed the growing evidence linking oral health’s impact to general health, particularly for seniors, a population that commonly experiences dental problems (one in four adults 65+ have lost all of their teeth). Emergency department visits for dental services continue to rise, costing the health care system over $1.6B a year. Integrating oral health and primary care will not only lower these costs, but will also improve outcomes for patients. 
Finnerty is focusing much of his work on two of the Foundation’s Oral Health 2020 targets: 1) increasing to 30 the number of state Medicaid Programs that provide an extensive adult dental benefit; and 2) including a dental benefit in Medicare. Specific to the Medicare target, Finnerty is engaging national, state, and local organizations to recognize the oral health needs of our seniors, and to partner with the Foundation and others to work toward inclusion of a comprehensive dental benefit in Medicare.  
Smart Mouths, Smart Kids
Smart Mouths Smart Kids (SMSK) is a collaborative initiative between OHCO, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), pilot communities throughout Colorado, and the DentaQuest Foundation. The work of collaborating partners has resulted in the development of a toolkit that guides communities in their efforts to establish sustainable, preventive oral health programs in schools. Resources, tools and interactive content can be found at smartmouthssmartkids.org.
A key component of the toolkit is a Data Collection Tool (a mini but targeted oral health record) that allows providers of school-linked oral health services to enter student oral health data (e.g., demographic data, sealants placed, sealant retention, decay or other oral health problems) that is aggregated to assure student confidentiality and provided to the Oral Health Unit at CDPHE for statewide oral health surveillance purposes. Three pilot communities are currently testing the Data Collection Tool in order to provide feedback that will assist program developers in refining the tool before it is released more widely across Colorado. The three pilots are the Aspen to Parachute Oral Health Alliance, Kids in Need of Dentistry (KIND), and the Northeast Colorado Dental Coalition. Kelly Keefe from Aspen to Parachute shared, “We’ve discovered the SMSK data tool to be fairly simple to use and easy to maneuver from detail to detail.”
The pilots are also in the process of using another SMSK tool—the feasibility calculator—to enter baseline data about their current provider models. This information will be used to look at potential program adjustments that will increase program effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability.
A number of states across the country that are engaged with the DentaQuest Foundation’s Oral Health 2020 movement have approached SMSK to talk about ways the Toolkit can be adapted for use outside of Colorado. Discussions are ongoing with key stakeholders to formulate a plan for scaling up the SMSK Toolkit so that it can be used by other states.
The team at CDPHE provides assistance and authorization to communities and providers interested in using the Data Collection Tool, and works with developers at the University Of Colorado School Of Public Health to de-bug and fine-tune the tool.  OHCO and its contractors provide technical assistance to the pilots as they are implementing the SMSK tools and evaluating promising practices for use in a variety of school settings.
The SMSK team knows firsthand the impact of poor oral health on a child’s ability to succeed in school (watch this Field Notes video to learn more). The SMSK initiative team is exploring collaborative opportunities with the Colorado Health Foundation and other organizations engaged in a collective approach to healthy schools and students in Colorado.
For more information, please visit smartmouthssmartkids.org.
Moving into Action in 2016
For the last year, OHCO has woven and elevated the conversation of oral health into the efforts of organizations and alliances across the state. We’ve built and strengthened relationships, and successfully engaged in a dialogue to connect existing community values to oral health. Through these conversations, we’ve shown how oral health is both a community responsibility and an individual responsibility, and we have motivated a broad and diverse audience to champion oral health throughout Colorado.
As our partners begin to prioritize oral health from a community perspective, their expectations have shifted and they’ve become more receptive to taking action within the public sphere for improving oral health. For example, the Colorado Muslim Society is now pursuing funding opportunities to build oral health education into their faith work. These type of efforts don’t happen overnight, but require a true collaborative approach where we listen, hear and support the motivations of our partners.
In 2016, OHCO plans to move our partners into action to improve oral health. Our Diverse Coalitions for Change will focus on three communities: Aurora, Colorado Springs and Grand Junction. This initiative will bring together members that are not only racially diverse, but also from distinct key constituencies, including faith, government, health advocacy, business, and community-based organizations and individuals who serve communities of color.
Each coalition will carry out an oral health project in their community, such as reducing access to sugar sweetened beverages, assuring community water fluoridation, and improving school engagement in oral health. OHCO will provide direction and technical assistance as each coalition develops, plans for and proposes their work. By leveraging these varied resources, we will collectively improve oral health and develop a model for expanding in other communities.
If you live in Aurora, Colorado Springs or Grand Junction and are interested in being an oral health partner for change in your community, we want to hear from you. Please contact our Outreach Director, Francoise Mbabazi for more information at francoise@oralhealthcolorado.org.
OHCO Marketing Communications Update
OHCO has been busy on the communications front, engaging and then strategizing with our new partner, Evolution Communications Agency. If you’ve noticed an increased frequency in OHCO’s social media messaging, it’s due to our goal of gaining 1,000 social media followers on Facebook and Twitter by January 1! Since starting our social media campaign on October 28, OHCO has gained 94 new Twitter followers and 87 new Facebook likes, for a total of 963 followers! You can help us exceed our number by going through your Facebook friends list and inviting them to like Oral Health Colorado!
Additionally, OHCO recently had its 2015 Oral Health Champions recognized in the Denver Business Journal. Four individuals were recognized by OHCO as 2015 Oral Health Champions for their efforts to improve oral health in Colorado. Expect to see and hear more from OHCO on local media in 2016. We are also updating our website and preparing for our 2016 projects.
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