Children's International Health Relief

Childrens International Health Relief


Dental Village Homeless Children
Outreach Program

Tacoma/Seattle

In Washington State, there are 146 community-based organizations in every county that receive Emergency Shelter Assistance Program (ESAP) funds to prevent homelessness and help homeless families. ESAP participated shelters provide emergency housing to over 15,000 children under the age of 18. Sadly, in Washington State 50% of the homeless served by ESAP participated shelters were children.

Homeless children face many challenges. A critical unmet need of homeless children is oral health. Tooth decay is the most common preventable chronic disease of childhood, four time more common than asthma. Untreated tooth decay can lead to poor nutrition and growth in young children, missed school days, unnecessary pain, low self-esteem and medical complications. The amount of tooth decay in a child is inversely related to income. Poor and moderate income families have more tooth decay, most of which is untreated. According to the National Institute of Dental Research Reports, 80% of tooth decay is found in just 25% of children. Many of these children are eligible for Washington State Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), but being entitled to services and actually receiving them are two different things. In King County, less than 30% of Medicaid children actually visited a dentist.

The reasons for poor utilization of Medicaid-eligible children are

  • lack of knowledge of the importance of dental care by families
  • school absence policies
  • transportation
  • discriminatory treatment
  • difficulty locating a dentist who accepts medicaid.

For homeless families with Medicaid-eligible children, or no insurance at all, lack of transportation and disabling conditions further complicate access to dental services. As a result, homeless children are at greater risk for poor oral health than low-income children in stable housing. It appears that expanding access to dental services is the key to fill the gaps in serving this vulnerable, hard to reach population through both public and private partnerships.

GOAL -The goal of Dental Village Homeless Children's Outreach Program is to provide an alternative service model to help fill the gaps in dental care for homeless children in Pierce,King, and Thurston Counties.

PURPOSE -The purpose of Dental Village Homeless Children's Outreach Program is
to provide quality dental care to homeless children on-site at family shelters with portable dental equipment.

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