SAN FERNANDO: Health Officials Applaud Dental Program for Poor
Assistance for San Fernando Valley residents, particularly children, suffering from dental problems is on the way, as the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Wednesday began a $1.2 million program that will allow low-income residents to visit nine private area dentists at little or no cost. Stemming from a 1997 inquiry that found the Valley's low-income residents received less dental care compared to the rest of Los Angeles county residents, the program will cover the cost of emergency care, including diagnostic exams, certain types of fillings and root canals. Routine preventive care exams will be added at a later date. According to the 1997 report by the state health services department and the California Wellness Foundation, there was a "neglected epidemic" in dental care among California children. "There were dental services at various (county) facilities in other parts of the county, but nothing in the Valley," Supervisor's Health Deputy Ron Hansen said. Sharon Swonger, public school nurse and administrator for the San Fernando cluster of the Los Angeles Unified School District, said, "The number one defect that school nurses of L.A. Unified find in children are dental defects." Program administrators said that "Children will be given priority." Public health officials applauded the program, calling it "long overdue." Dr. Tim Collins, dental director of the public health programs for the county's health service department, said, "The private sector and the county are coming together to jointly solve a need in the community." If the seven-month trial period is successful, the county will renew and extend contracts with participating providers for four more years at a cost of $2.1 million annually (Liu, Los Angeles Times, 12/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.