Dentists, dental schools and other eligible providers and entities in California can apply for grants up to $5 million to expand or adapt specialty clinics or to construct new clinics that serve individuals with special health care needs.
CDA led the successful push for the Specialty Dental Clinic Grant Program last year with the support of a coalition of providers, dental schools, disability rights organizations and consumer advocates, achieving a $50 million state budgetary investment in the newly created program.
The program aims to build a network of new or expanded specialty dental clinic facilities to increase access to oral health care for individuals with special health care needs. These patients have physical, developmental or cognitive disabilities that can require stabilization, deep sedation, special accommodations for mobility issues or other complex treatment that can only be provided in hospital or surgery center settings or need additional accommodations in traditional dental offices.
Grant program ‘a milestone’ for patients, providers and stakeholders
CDA President John Blake, DDS, called the launch of the grant program a milestone for patients who need special care and the dentists who provide that care, as well as for CDA and all stakeholders that have advocated for improved access to care.
“This is a true milestone. Expanding and expediting dental services for patients with special health care needs was a top budget priority for CDA in 2022, and we are pleased to see the state open the grant this fall to eligible applicants,” said Dr. Blake. “We have been present since the kickoff meeting to design this grant program and have worked closely with the grant administrator to help ensure these grant funds ultimately reach the patients who need specialized care the most.”
Eligible providers and entities can apply Oct. 3, 2023, through April 1, 2024, for the program’s first funding round. If grant funds remain after the first funding round, the program administrator will open subsequent funding rounds.
$50 million total investment a ‘historic win for dentistry and oral health care’
The $50 million, with separate $25 million allocations in years 2022 and 2023, was a historic win for dentistry and oral health care access, CDA wrote last June after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the 2022-23 state budget.
Limited access to dental care for patients with special needs is a decades-long crisis, even as the state has made strides to increase access in the Medi-Cal Dental Program, and few settings can provide dental care for patients with special needs. Most, including dental schools, are backlogged with exceptionally long wait times exacerbated by the pandemic. Many patients and their families travel hours to clinics to receive routine dental care, and some wait for years to receive that care.
Grants up to $5 million to construct or expand specialty dental clinics
Funds from the Specialty Dental Clinic Grant Program, which is being administered by California Health Facilities Financing Authority, can be used to expand or adapt specialty clinics at university dental schools or to construct new clinics that serve individuals with special health care needs.
Applicants can apply for a grant of up to $5 million and may use the funds on eligible costs, including:
- Construction of real property such as costs related to project planning and management, appraisals, inspections and preconstruction costs such as surveying and permit fees.
- Expansion, including the purchase of real property or one or more mobile dental units.
- Modification of real property, such as renovation or remodeling.
- Adaptation, such as the purchase of equipment or furnishings.
- Completed projects must be sustainable for at least 10 years after completion
Ultimately, new and expanded clinics should increase timely access to oral health care in California communities while reducing geographic shortages, encouraging prevention services and early intervention and providing education opportunities for providers and students.
The grant recipients will have ongoing compliance requirements. Critically, (1) the funded construction or expansion must be sustainable for at least 10 years after the project’s completion, (2) grant recipients must commit to serving a patient load made up of at least 50% patients with special health care needs for 10 years upon project completion, and (3) applicants must be Medi-Cal Dental-enrolled providers (pertains only to facilities financed with the grant funds).
Interested applicants should read the program guidelines for definitions and details on eligibility, grant distribution, evaluation criteria, reporting requirements and more. The program guidelines, frequently asked questions and a PDF of the application are available on the website of the state treasurer.