News release: Minnesota awards funds to better link dental and primary care in Morrison County

News Release
December 29, 2016

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Minnesota awards funds to better link dental and primary care in Morrison County

The Minnesota Department of Health has awarded a $100,000 grant to CHI St. Gabriel’s Health to better integrate primary care and dental services.

Recognizing the great need for oral health services in Minnesota, CHI St. Gabriel’s Health’s Family Medical Center, a certified Health Care Home clinic in Little Falls, will expand its partnership with Apple Tree Dental to increase on-site access to quality dental care. Other partners include South Country Health Alliance and Morrison County Social Services. As a certified Health Care Home clinic, CHI St. Gabriel’s Health’s Family Medical Center provides patient-centered care and links patients with a wide range of coordinated health services.

“With dental diseases nearly 100 percent preventable, this is a great investment in public health,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger. “When clinicians, public health workers and service providers come together as a team, they can lower costs, put patients first and achieve better outcomes.”

Although oral health is essential to overall health, 1 in 4 U.S. adults have untreated cavities, and cavities are the most common chronic disease among children. Research has linked poor oral health, especially gum disease, to other chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

This is a serious problem in Morrison County, where over 11 percent of residents live in households with income below the federal poverty level. For many people in this part of the state, it takes more than an hour to access oral health services and care. To address this problem, CHI St. Gabriel’s Health and Apple Tree Dental are working to expand patient access to integrated, on-site and mobile dental care in the Morrison County area. 

With this funding, CHI St. Gabriel’s Health’s Family Medical Center plans to develop a process for assessing medical patients’ oral health needs and training staff to make appropriate referrals to Apple Tree Dental. In addition, the medical center plans to add a community care worker to their team who will conduct home visits to assess the dental needs of patients who have a hard time getting to the clinic. The money will also help the clinic expand its electronic health record systems. This will allow health care providers to better coordinate, exchange and track oral and medical health information.

This project is part of a $45 million State Innovation Model (SIM) grant awarded to the Minnesota departments of health and human services in 2013 by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. Money from SIM grants supports the Minnesota Accountable Health Model, which aims to treat patients as whole people and expand patient-centered, team-based care across the state. The award is for a nine-month period starting Jan. 1.


Media inquiries:

Scott Smith
MDH Communications Office