CUMBERLAND – The Maryland Community Health Resources Commission (CHRC) recently awarded a $70,000, two-year grant to Cumberland-based AHEC West to expand existing oral health initiatives in Western Maryland to Washington County.  The grant to AHEC West is one of 16 grants totaling $3 million made by the CHRC this year.  These grants are designed to expand access to health care in underserved communities, reduce health disparities, and increase the capacity of safety net providers to serve vulnerable residents and are projected to serve more than 14,000 residents.

AHEC West Executive Director Susan Stewart thanked the CHRC for its support of Denture Access, saying the Commission’s rigorous review process affirmed both the need for such a program in Washington County and the value of existing programs that serve residents of Allegany and Garrett Counties.

“We are very grateful to CHRC for the opportunity to expand Denture Access and bring the benefits of this program to Washington County,” she said.
Denture Access, the AHEC West program funded by the CHRC, will employ a trained Community Health Worker (CHW) to spearhead the provision of no-cost dentures to low-income residents of Washington County who face numerous health challenges without teeth. The program will leverage dental-provider discounts that greatly extend the reach of the state funding.
As part of Denture Access, the CHW will screen program participants for general health issues, providing guidance, referrals, and other assistance for conditions such as food insecurity, livable income, and affordable housing that can play a major role in individual health outcomes.

Similar initiatives already serve residents of Allegany and Garrett counties under the Mountain Health Alliance and other AHEC West programs.
“The CHRC is pleased to support the expansion of Denture Access into Washington County,” commented Mark Luckner, Executive Director, CHRC. “We commend AHEC West in their continued efforts to expand access to dental services for low-income individuals.”

Denture Access is also supported by the Maryland Dental Action Coalition (MDAC), which works to promote improved oral healthcare for all Maryland residents.
“MDAC strongly supports improved access to oral healthcare for Marylanders,” said Mary Backley, MDAC’s executive director. “The CHRC grant to expand AHEC West’s Denture Access program brings a much-needed service to Washington County adults and will positively impact the overall health and daily lives of program participants.”
Lara Wilson, Executive Director of the Maryland Rural Health Association, said MRHA also applauded CHRC’s investment in the health for rural Marylanders.
“MRHA appreciates the Commission’s continued support of rural communities,” she said. “The CHRC is a vital partner in our state’s ongoing efforts to address unmet health and oral health care needs in rural areas in our state.”

The CHRC was created in legislation approved by the Maryland General Assembly in 2005 to expand access to health services in underserved communities and support projects that serve low-income, uninsured residents and vulnerable populations.  Since its inception, the CHRC has awarded 205 grants totaling $63.3 million, supporting projects in all 24 jurisdictions of the state.  These programs have collectively served more than 450,000 residents.  Expanding access to dental care services has long been a priority of the CHRC.  The Commission has awarded 38 dental programs totaling $7.7 million, and these projects have served more than 58,500 residents in rural, suburban, and urban areas.

About the Maryland Community Health Resources Commission:  The Maryland General Assembly created the Community Health Resources Commission in 2005 to expand access to affordable, high-quality health care services in the state’s underserved communities; increase access to specialty health care services for the uninsured and low-income individuals; promote interconnected systems of care and partnerships among community health resources and hospitals; help reduce preventable hospital ED visits; and support the adoption of health information technology in community health resources.  The CHRC is an independent commission within the Maryland Department of Health, and its 11 members are appointed by the Governor. In addition, under legislation approved by the Maryland General Assembly in 2017, the CHRC provides staffing support for the Council on Advancement of School-Based Health Centers. More information about the CHRC can be found on its website