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Disaster response law recognizes dental role

March 14, 2013

By Craig Palmer, ADA News Staff

Washington—The 113th Congress and President Obama, with one accord and little fanfare, produced public law offering disaster response opportunity for dentists and dental facilities long advocated by the profession and the Association.

The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2013 makes dental entities eligible for carrying out certain educational and training activities pertaining to public health emergencies. States, at their option, may include dentists and dental facilities, including dental schools, in their public health emergency plans without mandating participation by dentists.

Congress cleared the legislation March 4 for the president's March 13 enactment by signature.

The White House press secretary, in a brief statement, said the law “revises authorities for activities to improve public health and bioterrorism emergency planning, preparedness and response; streamlines authorities within the Department of Health and Human Services to improve coordination and eliminate inefficiencies; and strengthens the role of the Food and Drug Administration to bring prevention treatment products, known as 'countermeasures,' to market for emergency use.”

Preparedness and response activities “may include dental health facilities” and “dental health assets” under the law, and the medical surge capacity authority is amended by striking “public health or medical” and inserting “public health, medical or dental” language.

“Dentistry has assets in personnel and facilities that can be of great value in responding to a major bioterrorist attack on the United States,” said the cover story in the September 2002 Journal of the American Dental Association reporting on an ADA-convened workshop on the role of dentistry in bioterrorism.

The Association's subsequent legislative advocacy gained bipartisan congressional and professional support in recent Congresses culminating in the legislation enacted March 13, 2013.

The 113th Congress moved quickly on reauthorization of medical disaster and emergency response legislation, which included ADA-backed dental emergency responder language recognizing the importance of dentists and dental facilities to the nation's medical surge capacity. The House of Representatives approved the PAHPA legislation Jan. 22 by a roll call 395-29 vote. The Senate by unanimous consent passed its version of the legislation Feb. 27, and the House cleared the final measure by a 370-28 vote.