Cal State L.A. gets $16.6-million state grant to bring dental health to underserved children

Cal State Los Angeles was awarded $16.6 million to bring dental care to underserved communities in the Greater Los Angeles area, officials said Tuesday, billing the grant as the largest in the university’s history.

The school was one of 15 agencies awarded funding from the California Department of Health Care Services to create programs to improve access to dental care over the next four years for the roughly 5 million children enrolled in the Denti-Cal program.

The state will dole out a total of $150 million for the projects, which are part of the Medi-Cal 2020 Dental Transformation Initiative.

“With this grant we will be able to assist children who desperately need dental care,” William A. Covino, president of the university, said in a statement. “We’re grateful for the opportunity to serve in new ways.”

With the grant, the university, in partnership with the USC School of Dentistry, will send out mobile care teams to offer dental screenings and connect children with dentists.

Over the next four years, officials expect to work with about 32,000 youth under the age of 20 in urban communities around USC, Cal State L.A. and in the San Gabriel Valley.

The program includes a focus on American Indian youth and children with developmental disabilities, said Rita Ledesma, program director and Cal State L.A. professor.

As part of the program, students will be trained in identifying and responding to challenges families face that prevent young people from accessing dental care.

“Every year will bring on a new cadre of students,” Ledesma said. “We anticipate many of them will go into careers helping families and or addressing disparities in one way or another.”

Also receiving a grant to develop similar programs were Alameda County, Orange County, San Francisco City and County Department of Public Health and UCLA.

alene.tchekmedyian@latimes.com

Twitter: @AleneTchek

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