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IHS should consult state dental associations

Washington—The Indian Health Service should consult with state dental associations on a pilot project for credentialing dentists, the House Appropriations Committee recommended in a report posted online July 31.

The committee said in its report "delays, sometimes more than six months, in getting approved health care providers credentialed to work at tribal or Indian Health Service facilities results in candidates walking away because they cannot be processed in a timely fashion. The Committee directs the Service to explore establishing a centralized credentialing system to address workforce needs of hires as well as volunteer providers."

"The committee is aware that State dental associations in Arizona, New Mexico, South Dakota and North Dakota are actively working to improve oral health care access with tribes in those states. The committee recommends that the Service consult with these organizations and include the credentialing of dentists in a pilot program."

Association testimony March 19 urged the committee to support public-private partnerships for improving oral health care in American Indian country. Committee report language comports with several Association requests.

• Committee report: "The committee recommendation includes $300,000 for necessary full-time staff to implement the Early Childhood Caries initiative." This is an IHS program designed to promote prevention and early intervention of tooth decay in young children through an interdisciplinary approach. 

• ADA testimony: "We urge the committee to provide an additional $300,000 for needed personnel and materials."

• Committee report: "The committee heard in its March 19 hearing that a key for reducing disease disparity among American Indians and Alaska Natives is a sufficient workforce."

• ADA testimony: "The ADA believes that a key factor for these accomplishments and taking further steps to reduce disparity for disease is having a sufficient workforce." 

The Association said increased topical fluoride treatments and sealant placements are among "advances that we believe will lead to improvement in the oral health of American Indians/Alaskan Natives. But we also know there is still much more that needs to be done."

The committee report accompanies a pending fiscal year 2014 appropriation for the Indian Health Service and other agencies. Congress has not approved the appropriation bill, but the separate report signals congressional expectations of the IHS.