This project will support Connecticut’s development and implementation of an innovative plan to address the needs of the oral health workforce in designated Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas (Dental HPSAs). The project will address the following goals: 1. Encourage and support State innovation that will increase oral health services for populations living in Dental HPSAs. 2. Encourage and support the strategic use of evaluation to improve program performance, assess program impact, and address the concerns and needs of key stakeholders and decision makers within the state. 3. Encourage State to develop ways to sustain those programs that increase the accessibility and quality of oral health services within Dental HPSAs. Over the past two years the state of Connecticut has seen a sharp decline followed by a slow return to preventative dental services due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This is despite widespread Covid-19 vaccine availability and strong state vaccination rates. Ongoing concerns of infection continue to negatively impact dental care return rates especially among at-risk populations, including Medicaid dental recipients (CT Husky Dental) especially in the HPSA areas. The project will address low dental service utilization in Dental HPSAs and aim to increase dental service rates in vulnerable population including children and those with special needs. DPH will select two service providers to expand or establish mobile dental services in low utilization areas to mitigate barriers and increase access to oral health services. DPH will support contractors by providing technical assistance, data collection and tracking, rapid cycle quality improvement and sustainability. DPH will also conduct outreach and develop a targeted media campaign to underutilized Dental HPSA areas to address common misinformation, to encourage access, utilization and safety of both dental services and the Covid-19 vaccine. To understand the effects that
Covid-19 has had on the Connecticut oral health workforce, a statewide needs assessment will be conducted to survey dental providers to highlight challenges, concerns and identify training needs. The assessment results will be shared with key stakeholders and decision-makers in effort to support their ability to adapt and respond to future public health emergencies by provide workforce development trainings which provide Continuing Education (CEU) opportunities. This project will support the DPH mission to improve health equity, improve access to dental services in Dental HPSAs, and support overall preventative health, including statewide Covid vaccination efforts. Key measurable objectives to be achieved by the end of the project include: 1. By August 2026, Connecticut HUSKY dental enrollees in specified Dental HPSAs will report a 5% increased utilization of any dental care (prevention and treatment). 2. By August 2026, COVID-19 testing rates increase by 5% in designated Dental HPSAs. 3. By August 2026, COVID-19 vaccination rates increase by 5% in designated Dental HPSAs. 4. By August 2026, the conference will demonstrate a 5% increase in knowledge. 5. By August 2026, a four-year Evaluation Plan will be finalized. 6. By August 2026, a sustainability plan will be finalized.