Monday, June 1, 2009

CM James Supports Oral Health Program for Children In NYC Public Schools


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.



Anonymous said...

How has Mayor Bloomberg eliminated the Oral health Program from the budget? You have always been an advocate for the vulnerable children for whom this program provides.

Aja Worthy-Davis said...

The budget was the result of weeks-long negotiations between the City Council and the administration. Further information will be released after the budget is finalized. Through such negotiations, Council Member James was able to join her fellow members in helping to save Brooklyn fire houses, maintain 6-day library service, and protect ACS personnel. Her ongoing effort to save Oral Health was not successful, but many of the proposals at this point include absorbing these programs into existing health organizations, so that the services are not lost. We remain hopeful that, at worst, these programs may be re-implemented in better economic times.

Anonymous said...

The program cost was almost nothing compared to other programs. It is sad that for only a million dollars children's oral health is slashed! Unless the city steps in, there will be no free help for kids. Council member James is wonderful and does a lot for the city. It is just a shame there was not more support and that the mayor and commissioner wanted it gone.

Anonymous said...

The program is now dead. Patients were still coming in for appointments and were told the clinics are closed. A city hospital pediatric clinic called and asked to set up appointments. They were told that all the clinics were closed. The nurse asked where were children without insurance suppose to go?
A mother, whose child was in pain and face was swollen, asked what was she suppose to do ? The staff was crying. Everyone knows that children will not be seen and will be left in pain. The public advocate's report, GAO report and everyone on the city council knows this. Bloomberg says he cares about working families, this just shows he does NOT!!! People talk a good game but in the end actions speak louder than words!