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Northern Dental Access Center Patient Support and Outreach Program

Summary 
  • Need: To connect low-income people in rural northwest Minnesota to dental care and support services in order to address barriers to care.
  • Intervention: Partners work together to provide patient transportation, care coordination, and insurance navigation and enrollment.
  • Results: Patients accessing support services are more likely to complete dental treatment. Over 1,000 people a year have been assisted with Medicaid enrollment, and reported use of the emergency department for dental pain has been reduced.
Evidence-level
Promising (About evidence-level criteria)
Description

Northern Dental Access Center logoNorthern Dental Access Center is a nonprofit community dental clinic that serves low-income residents who live in rural northwest Minnesota. This 20-county region has the highest birth rates in the state along with high rates of infant mortality and births to teenage mothers, highest rates of overall poverty and children in poverty, and lowest median household income and highest rates of public assistance payments per capita. About 20-30% of the region's population is Native American, a group that often faces greater levels of poverty, unemployment, and chronic disease.

Northern Dental Access Center sign

Community Resource Connections, Beltrami Area Service Collaborative, and Evergreen Youth & Family Services have partnered with Northern Dental Access Center to provide dental care, mental health screenings and referrals, and insurance counseling to patients in order to help reduce barriers to care. A part-time registered nurse was hired as part of a new wellness program to enhance patient support services with child and teen wellness exams, tobacco cessation counseling, blood pressure checks and monitoring, chemical dependency assessments, chronic disease counseling, and medical nutrition therapy. As a result, Northern Dental Access Center has been able to connect patients and clients with services beyond their dental needs.

Northern Dental Access Center staff member with patient

This program received support from a 2012-2015 Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) Rural Health Care Services Outreach grant to identify and address barriers to care, including mental health issues. The focus of this expansion was to build on the already existing patient advocacy and support services that the organization provides. This project added an expanded safety net beneath the most vulnerable patients and augments dental care with integrated patient support and outreach.

Services offered

A variety of services are offered by this organization, including:

  • Patient advocacy and care coordination through certified community health workers
  • Patient transportation assistance
  • Information about and referrals to local health and human services
  • Referrals to mental health and primary care providers for intervention/treatment
  • Insurance navigation and enrollment
Results
  • 1,480 people received insurance navigation or enrollment assistance.
  • Over 1,200 urgent care/walk-in encounters were provided.
  • Over 2,000 referrals to partner agencies were made to assist patients in accessing support services.
  • Patients accessing the transportation assistance program were 37% more likely to complete treatment.
  • 27% of patients access one or more support services, 20% of whom were referred to a support service by clinical staff:
    • 212 for basic needs
    • 37 for behavioral health
    • 1,750 for healthcare enrollment or other assistance
    • 107 for other reasons, including legal services

Northern Dental also saw the following results:

  • A 40% reduction since 2012 in patients reporting using the emergency department for dental emergencies
  • A more than 40% reduction since 2013 in external referrals for specialty care involving long-distance travel
  • 98% of patients reporting the following in an exit survey:
    • The quality of their dental care is good/excellent.
    • The facility has a welcoming environment.
    • They are likely to return for their next appointment.
Barriers

Some challenges Northern Dental Access Center has faced include:

  • Facility space limitations
  • Leadership challenges that delayed the implementation of activities
  • Collaborative partners facing funding and other resource challenges
  • Patient resistance to co-location of care
Replication

In order to create a similar program, it is important to:

  • Create a data tracking system to measure impact
  • Conduct weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual reports to track progress
  • Conduct patient surveys at the start and end of treatments
  • Make data-driven decisions
  • Remain transparent
Contact Information
Jeanne Edevold Larson, Executive Director
Northern Dental Access Center
218.444.9646
Jeanne.larson@northerndentalaccess.org
Topics
Access
Oral health
Substance abuse
Uninsured and underinsured
States served
Minnesota
Date added
September 2, 2015
Date updated or reviewed
October 27, 2017

Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.