Assemblymember David Chiu speaks is seeking to give dental clinics at public universities access to federal funding to provide dental care for people with disabilities. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Chiu bill would expand access to dental care for special needs patients

State Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, announced Wednesday he’s introducing a bill to expand access to dental care for special needs patients throughout California.

Assembly Bill 2146 would allow dental clinics at public universities to have access to federal matching dollars in order to increase access to dental care for people with developmental disabilities and other special health care needs, according to Chiu’s office.

The federal matching dollars would come from an agreement between the schools and the California Department of Health Care Services and the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“Dental care is such a vital part of maintaining good health, and yet it is so often overlooked in broader health care conversations,” Chiu said in a statement. “The special needs dental clinics at our public universities are a lifeline for many, but they need more resources to increase access and care for our most vulnerable,” he said.

Research shows people with developmental and intellectual disabilities have a disproportionately high rate of dental disease and tooth decay. Also, because they often have special health care needs, many dentists aren’t equipped to provide them with care, leaving people with disabilities few treatment options.

The bill would also help provide dental students with training and aims to increase the number of providers who are able to treat special needs patients.

Currently, there are only six dental school special needs clinics in California. Only two of those clinics are located at public universities, which are the University of California at Los Angeles and University of California at San Francisco.

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