Need: To help rural Maryland adults with disabilities learn more about oral health and access care.
Intervention: Health Right community health workers gave educational presentations at agencies serving those with disabilities.
Results: From March 2014 to February 2016, educational presentations reached 1,084 adults with disabilities and 344 staff and caregivers, and 256 people received dental treatment.
Accessing dental care in Maryland can be a difficulty for
people with disabilities, as Medicaid plans in the state
offer limited oral health benefits, and dentists may not
be trained or have the resources to serve patients with
Health Right funds dental care for adults with low
incomes who are uninsured or underinsured. Through its
Disabled Adults Oral Health Initiative, this safety net
program used community health workers (CHWs) to educate
and connect adults with disabilities to oral health
The partnering agencies included Allegany County Health
Department Dental Clinic, Human Resources Development
Commission, Inc. (Community Action Coalition), and
facilities such as Friends Aware, Inc. that offer day
programs for adults with intellectual disabilities.
The initiative was funded by the Maryland Community
Health Resources Commission.
CHWs visited agencies serving adults with disabilities
and their caregivers to provide free educational
presentations. These presentations covered topics such
Brushing and flossing
Eating a healthy diet
Drinking fluoridated water
Visiting the dentist regularly
Finding oral health services
The Disabled Adults Oral Health Initiative saw the
From March 1, 2014, to August 31, 2014:
CHWs visited 15 agencies, reaching 646 adults with
disabilities and 173 staff and caregivers.
70 adults with disabilities received dental treatment
for urgent needs (tooth extractions, fillings, cleanings,
From September 1, 2014, to March 1,
CHWs visited 10 sites, reaching 186 adults with
disabilities and 88 staff and caregivers.
51 adults with disabilities received dental
treatment, with 74 dental encounters.
From March 1, 2015, to August 31, 2015:
CHWs gave 11 presentations, reaching 192 adults with
disabilities and 64 staff and caregivers and distributing
409 pieces of educational material.
101 adults with disabilities (94 new clients)
received dental treatment, with 157 dental encounters.
From September 1, 2015, to February 29,
CHWs gave 5 presentations, reaching 60 adults with
disabilities and 19 staff and caregivers.
67 adults with disabilities (41 new clients) received
dental treatment, with 100 encounters.
The biggest barriers to dental care include lack of money
and coverage as well as transportation. CHWs provided
support and advocacy for people with disabilities to
overcome any and all barriers that they face. CHWs worked
with these individuals to understand their dental
coverage and educated them on the importance of good oral
health. Additionally, CHWs also served as a liaison
between organizations within the community and people
with disabilities to link them to needed resources and
Health Right worked with an emergency department (ED)
staff to help redirect those who came to the ED for a
dental condition. Health Right developed flyers about
their dental services but found that they weren't
distributed consistently. Between March 2014 and February
2016, the ED had referred 70 people to Health Right's
services, but only 7 of them had disabilities. Health
Right worked on improving communications, and the ED
agreed to fax patients' contact information with their
consent so that Health Right could reach out to these
Partner with agencies serving those with disabilities.
Project coordinators found that many of these agencies
and caregivers had been trying and struggling to connect
their patients with dental care (due to limited finances
and lack of able/willing providers) and were eager for
the Disabled Adults Oral Health Initiative.
Health Right's partnership with the Allegany County
Health Department allowed 3 to 4 hours of care per
patient, so many patients were able to receive emergency
care as well as more comprehensive care.
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.