FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 29, 2009
Contact: Amyre Loomis at (718) 260-9191
Council Member Letitia James Supports Oral Health Program for Children located in New York City Public Schools
The window of opportunity to save the Children’s Oral Health Program will soon be closed, as the June 12th layoff date for dentists is fast approaching
(Brooklyn, NY) - For over 100 years, the New York City Oral Health Program (OHP) has served children in public schools without charge, whether the children are insured or not.
Claims by the Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) that children in New York City Public Schools can receive dental service elsewhere, such as through Medicaid are misleading, as not all children have coverage and most children are never seen by a dentist unless the care comes to them.
“Management seems to be doing everything in their power to eliminate this program without a viable backup plan in place. If this program is closed children will lose their access to dental care, either because they will have to pay, or because it won't be available in their schools, or both,” said Dr. Gary Peters, a long-time Oral Health Program dentist.
Claims that others dentists will take over the clinics are misleading, as those “others” do not take care of the uninsured, and interest doesn’t extend to taking over all the current clinics. And, to replace this program with a referral service at a cost of $ 1.75 million (as suggested is the Mayor’s 2010 budget), when the entire full service program costs only $ 2.5 million is simply illogical. Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum recently compiled an extensive report on the matter condemning the proposed closures as well.
Only the OHP has the flexibility to seek out children in need of dental care – and open clinics in public schools, as the need becomes known. Dr. Margaret Mahoney, a dentist working for the Oral Health Program for 23 years said: “One out of every two children that I examine has a dental issue to address. If this program closes, a great void will be left in the underserved communities. Already patients have been turned away from our clinics. They are no longer allowed to make appointments for checkups and are now dental homeless.”
“It is well known that good health starts with the teeth, and this begins during childhood. It is simply unconscionable for the Department of Health & Mental Hygiene to phase out this critical oral health program for our youth, and I will do whatever I can to save it. It is my hope that the City Council will prevail in its quest to maintain this important service for our children,” said Council Member James.
According to Dr. Peters, with limited staff more than 23,182 teeth were protected from getting cavities from September 2007 - April 2009, through the application of protective dental sealants, and this is only a small component of the program. How tragic it will be for New York City school children if the 17,000 children currently seen annually are cut off from access to dental care.