2015 Wisdom Tooth Award Recipient: Central Counties Health Centers Connects Illinois Kids and Dental Care

6771 Glasses-1200x1200Poor dental health habits can impact a child’s life in a wide variety of ways, from causing physical pain to decreasing self-esteem. But today, the future of children’s oral health in Illinois is growing a bit brighter as the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation has officially begun accepting applications for its annual Wisdom Tooth Award. 2016 marks the fourth year in which the Foundation will award a $100,000 grant to a nonprofit organization that has improved the oral health of Illinois children and plans to expand or enhance an existing children’s oral health program in Illinois.

Since its inception in 2013, the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation’s Wisdom Tooth Award has given much-needed funds to Promise Healthcare’s SmileHealthy Program, St. Bernard Hospital Dental Center and, most recently, Central Counties Health Centers. With the support of the Foundation, these organizations are working to expand oral health education and access to dental care for underserved Illinois children, improve treatment for patients with special needs and much more.

Some grant recipients, like 2015 Wisdom Tooth Award grantee Central Counties Health Centers (CCHC), have leveraged the grant in less conventional ways through a focus on issues like the transportation barriers that keep Illinois children from visiting the dentist.

We recently spoke with CCHC President and CEO Heather Burton to learn more about the good work her organization is doing with the support of Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation and the Wisdom Tooth Award. Want the full scoop? Read on to learn more about CCHC’s new “Check Up Pick Up” program and find out how your organization can apply for this year’s Wisdom Tooth Award.

CCHC Launches “Check Up Pick Up” Program With The Support of Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation’s Wisdom Tooth Award

In recent years, Central Counties Health Centers (CCHC), a provider of primary and preventive medical and dental services to thousands of Central Illinois residents, found that too many children were falling through the cracks of the oral healthcare system.

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“We have a really good relationship with Miles of Smiles, a group that goes into schools and performs dental exams, finding kids with treatment needs and referring those kids to us. Many of those kids are on Medicaid or uninsured,” CCHC president and CEO Heather Burton explained.

But despite the opportunity for the free trip to the dentist, many of the referred children did not show up.

“We discovered that transportation was one of the main problems,” Burton said. “About a year before applying for the Wisdom Tooth Award, we started considering ways to solve the transportation problem, and the idea for the ‘Check Up Pick Up’ program was born.”

The “Check Up Pick Up” program will provide transportation to and from CCHC for children who are referred to their dental clinic. Thanks to the funds provided through the Wisdom Tooth Award, the program will expand over the next two years to offer comprehensive oral health services to 250 children who would otherwise not have access. This group represents some of the most at-risk children in Central Illinois.

“We viewed the Wisdom Tooth Award as an opportunity to expand our work in the communities we serve,” Burton said. Since receiving the Wisdom Tooth Award, CCHC has purchased an official “Check Up Pick Up” van and added 100 children to the list to receive a ride to their free dental appointment.

The Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation team was excited to invest their support in this thoughtful solution to a difficult problem.

“By empowering organizations like Central Counties Health Centers to extend dental care to children who would otherwise go without, we fulfill our mission and help them to fulfill theirs,” Lora Vitek, director of philanthropy for Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation said. “We look forward to receiving applications from many organizations innovatively impacting and advancing children’s oral health in Illinois.

Apply for the 2016 Wisdom Tooth Award

If your organization is dedicated to improving the oral health of Illinois children and have a program that is making a difference, consider applying for the 2016 Wisdom Tooth Award. Organizations can begin to apply today, March 18, 2016 through May 20, 2016 at 5:00 p.m. Illinois public charities that are classified as exempt from federal income taxes under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and public or governmental entities, such as public schools or health departments, are eligible and encouraged to apply.

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Burton has one key piece of advice for organizations looking to craft a successful application.

“To be innovative, identify a specific need in your community and either work within your organization or with some of your community partners to find a way to meet that need,” Burton recommended.

Burton’s advice captures the spirit of the Foundation’s requirements for award recipients.

“Every year, we read numerous applications about programs that seek to benefit the oral health of Illinois children,” Vitek said. “We want to see not only the dedication to providing top-quality care, but fresh ideas about how to deliver oral health care and how to improve oral health education. We’re looking for organizations that intend to expand or enhance the care they deliver in the years ahead.”

If your organization has an initiative that could benefit from the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation’s Wisdom Tooth Award, apply now. To learn more about the Wisdom Tooth Award or to support the efforts of the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation, visit us.

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