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Janet Sevier Gilbreath Award 2011

Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved

2011 Winner
Janet Sevier Gilbreath Special Project Recognition Award

The Kansas Dental Hub project started with a bold idea: a statewide system for delivering affordable, accessible dental care to low-income Kansans. The need was obvious as thousands of Kansans stood in line every year to receive dental care at the annual weekend Mission of Mercy event and reports of Kansans having to forego desperately needed dental care because of cost were commonplace.

The Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved--KAMU--proffered a solution. Use a system of affordable health care already in place and build on it. A network of Community Health Centers already existed to provide medical care on a sliding fee scale. A few provided dental care, as well, but this was small in the face of overwhelming need.

KAMU recommended expanding Community Health Centers to serve oral health with a "hub and spoke" approach. Within the Health Centers, dental clinics offering preventive, emergency, and restorative dental services would be established or expanded to serve as "hubs" and, organized around the hub, would be "spokes" to provide outreach, screening and preventive services to surrounding counties.

The idea might have stopped there if not for the extraordinary effort of KAMU to build an unprecedented public-private partnership to invest in the Kansas Dental Hub project. Six Kansas foundations and the Kansas Legislature pooled more than $6 million to implement the project over three years. The Health Ministry Fund awarded three grants totaling $1,250,000 as part of the collaborative effort.

Results exceeded expectations. In 2010, 79,393 dental visits were reported, an 88% increase over 2007 when the project started. These visits reflected 76% additional dental patients. Although the numbers take center stage when recognizing the achievements of this project, it is important to remember that behind each number is a person who needed care, and probably could not have afforded it without the services made possible through this project.

The number of patients served in one year, alone, doesn't do justice to the overall success of the project. Permanent changes have been made that will continue to serve Kansans for years to come. Ten safety net dental hubs and numerous spokes--covering about two-thirds of Kansas counties--have been established or expanded with the 16 grants awarded to clinics. Safety net dental sites have increased from six to 27; dentists from seven to 25; and hygienists from twelve to 25. Even now that project funds are spent, clinics continue on their own to invest in expanding dental services through increased staffing, facilities and equipment.

For its significant and long-term contribution to improving access to dental care for low-income Kansans, for its extraordinary demonstration of the power of collaboration, for its skilled project management, and, especially, for its vision of a sustainable statewide system, the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved is named the Janet Sevier Gilbreath Special Project for 2011.

Representing the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved and the Kansas Dental Hub program: Cathy Harding, Executive Director, KAMU; Kendra Poole, CFO/COO, KAMU; Robert Stiles, Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas; Karen Finstad, Delta Dental of Kansas Foundation; Bryan Brady, First Care Clinic; Phillip Davis, Flint Hills Community Health Center; David Sanford, GraceMed Health Clinic; Jason Wesco, Health Partnership Clinic of Johnson County; Lee Wolf, Konza Prairie Commuity Health Center; Dana Schultz, PrairieStar Health Center; Dr. Rob Freelove and Ann Feil, Salina Family Healthcare Center; and Stephanie Waggoner, United Methodist Western Kansas Mexican-American Ministries.

Awarded May 8, 2012

Learn more about the Janet Sevier Gilbreath award