Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan grant will help People’s Health Centers of Michigan provide access to dental care to thousands in Kent County

Donation aids local health care providers’ collaborative efforts to provide accessible, quality health care to underinsured

Jan. 25, 2013

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. —  More than 15,000 individuals, primarily homeless or lower income, will gain access to much needed dental care through a grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM).

The grant results from an innovative partnership between BCBSM and People’s Health Centers of Michigan (PHCM), a non-profit collaboration of Saint Mary’s Health Care, Hope Network and Metro Health. PHCM is dedicated to increasing access to comprehensive health services including primary care, mental health and dental services.

BCBSM President of West Michigan Operations and Managed Care Jeff Connolly presented the award today at an event attended by Michigan Department of Community Health Director Jim Haveman, State Senator Mark Jansen, State Representative Thomas Hooker and PHCM staff, volunteers and patients.

The $200,000 grant will be used to establish a new dental program at the Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) operated by Saint Mary’s Health Care. The dental program will be operated by PHCM and located at Hope Network’s 36th Street campus in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“Dental neglect is a serious problem in Kent County, with more than 10,000 emergency room visits attributed to dental neglect every year,” says Haveman. “The annual cost of in-patient treatment due to dental neglect is $1.2 million, according to the 2011 Michigan Check-Up on Oral Health.  And, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there were 627 homeless individuals in the Grand Rapids-Wyoming area in 2011.”

PHCM intends to use the funds to provide five dental operatories and recruit and hire licensed dentists and hygienists to provide preventive and restorative oral health care for homeless and low income FQHC patients. The organization’s goal is to have the resources to provide dental health care to as many as 20,000 patients annually.

“With these new resources, our community can better address the challenge of providing necessary, and often urgent, dental care to thousands of individuals who would otherwise have no access to these important services,” said State Senator Jansen.

“This award from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan doesn’t just open the door to dental health care for thousands of individuals in our community, it also shines a light on the kinds of partnerships we build to help our neighbors and people in need,” said State Representative Hooker.

“For decades, the Federally Qualified Health Center operated by Saint Mary’s Health Care has been serving people in need in Kent County and now, thanks to this generous award from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, we can expand those services to include dental care,” said Randy Wagner, chief operating officer for Saint Mary’s Health Care. “This award will not only help many people get the care they need, it will also help us build a stronger health care community in the greater Grand Rapids area.”

“Quality dental care is critical to overall health care and we’re grateful to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for helping us provide this essential service,” said Mike Faas, chief executive officer of Metro Health.

“For 50 years, Hope Network has advocated for accessible, integrated health care for  all who need it, and this generous donation from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan will allow People’s Health Centers of Michigan to extend its reach to those who require dental care,” said Phil Weaver, president & CEO of Hope Network.

According to Robert Wood Johnson 2012 Community Health Rankings, 14 percent of the Kent County population is uninsured (more than 85,000 residents).  Unemployment exceeds 10 percent and over 20 percent of children in the county live in poverty.

“Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is committed to collaborating with respected organizations such as People’s Health Centers of Michigan to build healthier communities,” added Connolly. “Access to quality dental care is a challenge to far too many families and individuals, and we’re pleased that health care providers and communities in Kent County are coming together to deliver this vital service to people most in need.”

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network are nonprofit corporations and independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more company information, visit bcbsm.com.

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