e-mail Print Share

ADA president testifies before congressional committee

CDHCs serve Native American communities

March 25, 2015

By Craig Palmer


On the Hill: Dr. Feinberg stands at the door of the House Appropriations Committee for March 25 testimony on Indian Health Service budget. Photo by Margo Klosterman
Washington – The Association is working with the Navajo "to recruit members of that nation to train as [community dental health] coordinators, and we hope to expand that pipeline dramatically in coming years," Dr. Maxine Feinberg told Congress March 25 in her first congressional testimony as ADA president.

"The ADA recently completed a pilot project to develop a new member of the dental team, the community dental health coordinator," Dr. Feinberg testified. "CDHCs focus on connecting patients with dentists. They work in communities to provide education on diet, dental hygiene and the importance of good oral health. Equally important, they help connect people in need of care with dental teams that can provide it.

"Today 11 American Indian CDHCs are providing these services in 17 Native American communities. Community colleges nationwide are adopting this curriculum," Dr. Feinberg said in presenting the invited   testimony of the American Dental Association on Indian Health Service appropriations. Visit ADA.org for more information on community dental health coordinators.

Dentist/Rep. Mike Simpson, an Idaho Republican in the House Appropriations Committee leadership, thanked Dr. Feinberg for the testimony and "for the work the ADA does" to advance the oral health of American Indians and Alaska Natives. "We need to do a better job recruiting Native Americans into the profession," he said. Dr. Feinberg cited a Southern California program where pre-dental students, some of them Native Americans, volunteer in free clinics. "So there's a future," she replied.

In her testimony, Dr. Feinberg said, “The Administration has requested $181 million for the Division of Oral Health, a small increase that would barely accommodate population growth and cost of living increases at current staffing levels” and that it “is not sufficient to allow IHS to expand services and improve the delivery of oral health care." The Association requested an additional $4 million to purchase portable equipment, expand clinical and preventive support centers and expedite the electronic dental records initiative.

The House Appropriations subcommittee on interior, environment and related agencies convened hearings on a budget for American Indian and Alaska Native programs under subcommittee jurisdiction.
 
"This administration has put this subcommittee in a tight spot with regard to the 2016 budget, by raising expectations throughout Indian Country that we will struggle to meet," said Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., subcommittee chair. "Current law requires discretionary spending to stay relatively flat in fiscal year 2016 in comparison to 2015. Therefore, this subcommittee's challenge will be to find the money from within to pay for the have-to-dos without cutting the popular nice-to-dos by so much that we can't pass a bill."

The Association is "grateful for your efforts over the past two years to encourage IHS to make the credentialing process simpler and more uniform," Dr. Feinberg told the subcommittee. "Unfortunately, despite your requests, this process continues to be a barrier to many of our member dentists who would otherwise gladly volunteer their time to care for people in Native American communities. The IHS could and should streamline its credentialing process."

Dr. Feinberg also urged support for legislation to amend the tax code to make IHS student loan repayments tax free as is the case with National Health Service Corps loan repayments.

Dr. Feinberg, a Cranford, N.J. periodontist, is the elected president of the Association.