BURLINGTON, Vt., July 20 –Vermont’s congressional delegation announced Friday that Vermont Technical College received $400,000 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop a program to educate dental therapists, which will help expand access to much-needed oral health care throughout Vermont.
The $400,000 in federal funds will play an instrumental role in establishing and implementing a dental therapy education program at Vermont Technical College.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said, “Access to dental treatment is essential to maintaining good health, but a shortage of dentists, particularly in rural areas, has left many without care. Through this federal grant, Vermont Technical College will develop a program to train dental therapists who can work in areas of need to alleviate the gaps in dental care. While the Trump administration recommended eliminating oral health training programs, this year’s Omnibus Appropriations Bill increased funding by $4 million, allowing for more grants to training programs across the country. We are proud of VTC’s leadership to address a timely health care challenge in our state.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said, “The evidence is clear: Poor oral health care can impact every aspect of a person’s life, from increased risks of diabetes and heart disease to the ability to hold down a job. At the same time, millions of Americans live in areas with little or no access to oral health care. This program will help change that by educating a new generation of critically-needed dental providers. I can think of no organizations better positioned to take on this work than Vermont Tech, which has an overall 98 percent placement rate upon graduation, and our community health centers, which provide high quality health care to Vermonters, regardless of their ability to pay.”
“I am proud this groundbreaking effort is happening right here in Vermont and hope this new workforce of dental therapists will help lead the way in improving access to oral health care throughout the country,” Sanders said.
Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said, “Quality dental care is an important component of maintaining good overall health. Too often, access to dental care in rural areas is lacking. This program will lead to improved access to dental care in Vermont and is a vote of confidence in Vermont Technical College and its important mission to meet the workforce needs of our state.”
Patricia Moulton, president of Vermont Technical College, said, “Vermont Tech is grateful for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant award and all of the effort our federal delegation did to help us secure it. With these funds, the college can make the educational program a reality. Without the grant, we would not have been able to fulfill the state’s need for workforce development in oral health.”
Georgia Maheras, vice president of policy and programs for BiState Primary Care Association, which is partnering with Vermont Tech on this grant, said, “We congratulate Vermont Technical College on this innovative award and appreciate HRSA’s investment in oral health in Vermont. Expanding the dental team, especially in dental health professional shortage areas where it is most needed, will enable federally qualified health centers around the state to meet the oral health needs of their patients. We look forward to working with Vermont Tech’s dental therapy students to improve the health of Vermonters.”
In 2016, Vermont became the third state in the United States to authorize the practice of dental therapy, which is essential to addressing what is often considered a dental crisis in rural states like Vermont.
Vermont is the first state to require dental therapists to graduate from an education program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation, the nationally-recognized accreditation body for dental education programs. Vermont Tech will be the first accredited program in the United States.