In 2005, with the support of the FISA Foundation, ACHIEVA created the Disabilities Health Policy Forum, now called the Disability Healthcare Initiative (DHI), and began its work on access to healthcare for children and adults with disabilities. Access to dental care was the first issue undertaken by the DHI.
With the support of the Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council and the FISA Foundation, in 2007, ACHIEVA created the Advancing Oral Healthcare Project to identify barriers to accessing dental care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and to promote strategies and initiatives for systemic change, ensuring access to affordable, equitable services. Several of these initial efforts are now being realized.
With the continued support of the FISA Foundation, in 2007, the Disability Healthcare Initiative published Access to Oral Health Care for Pennsylvanians with Disabilities: A Rising Public Health Issue which identified the issues that contributed to oral health care for people with disabilities being a serious public health problem. As a result, the issue of disparities in access to dental care for people with disabilities received the attention of dental professionals, insurers and Pennsylvania legislators.
In 2009, the Disability Healthcare Initiative published Access to Dental Care for People with Disabilities: Challenges and Solutions – A Report to Pennsylvania’s Legislators. This report developed seven recommendations including directing the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) to study and issue a report on the disparities in dental care for Pennsylvanians with disabilities. A resolution was introduced in the PA legislature each of the past three sessions. Advocacy by the Disability Healthcare Initiative continued and Resolution 61 was passed by the legislator. The Disability Healthcare Initiative assisted the LBFC to create a dental health survey which was released to all dentists practicing in the Commonwealth in May 2014. More than 600 surveys were returned and the report will be distributed to all members of the PA legislature in September 2014.
In 2012, the Disability Healthcare Initiative continued nationally recognized work of the FISA Foundation on increasing access to health care for women with disabilities and wrote Access to Healthcare for Women and Girls with Disabilities: A Report to Pennsylvania Legislators. This report also developed seven recommendations including instituting a part-time loan forgiveness program, using existing funding, for medical and dental professionals. HB 2179 was introduced in May 2014 to establish this program.
Also in 2012, ACHIEVA was selected by The Arc of the United States to be one of five pilot sites in the nation to implement HealthMeetTM, funded through a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control. This project offered free health screenings to adults with disabilities while promoting health and wellness through webinars and information for people with disabilities, families and health professionals. This project will be part of national efforts to collect and analyze data regarding health issues, to promote information around health disparities and to improve access to healthcare for people I/DD and disabilities.
On July 25, 2013 we delivered the “Because Every Goddess Deserves Good Healthcare” booklet, with the support of the Women and Girls Foundation, to all members of the General Assembly thanking them for their support of legislative efforts on behalf of those with disabilities, especially for women who often have trouble accessing services for routine care.
In 2014 the Disability Healthcare Initiative expanded its focus to include the transition of young adults with disabilities and chronic/special health care issues from pediatric to adult health care. We researched and produced the report, “Transition from Pediatrics to Adult Medical Systems for Young Adults with Disabilities or Special Health Care Needs”. Printed in April 2014, this report was sent to the Pennsylvania Secretaries of Health, Education and Public Welfare. It was also emailed to all Pennsylvania’s Medicaid Managed Care Organizations – to the President, the Medical Director and the Communications liaison. In addition, it was distributed through the Elks Home Service Nurse program across the Commonwealth and to other stakeholder groups throughout Pennsylvania.
ACHIEVA works with many stakeholders, including individuals with disabilities and their families, medical professionals, hospital and health centers, government agencies, educators, insurance companies, foundation and advocates to develop viable solutions to increase healthcare and promote health and wellness for people with disabilities.
The Disability Healthcare Initiative at ACHIEVA/The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh was recently awarded a two-part grant from the national DentaQuest Foundation to improve access to oral health care across the southwestern region of Pennsylvania. This initial grant funding will support community-level collaboration to assess the oral health awareness landscape and determine barriers to care in vulnerable populations. As part of this work, ACHIEVA created to electronic surveys to gather data about the oral health of southwest PA, one for the parents of young children and one for adults.
Based on the information gathered through this survey process, ACHIEVA will lead a group of community partners to create an action plan to address oral health barriers and work towards implementation to reduce those barriers. ACHIEVA’s goal is to create partnerships to build better awareness about the value of oral health and integrating oral health into overall well-being for everyone, but especially those that often have barriers to care. These local efforts will connect with state level work to reduce cavities in children and make oral health care education a priority in schools, alongside medical practices and with families across the community.
As part of this work, the Disability Healthcare Initiative at ACHIEVA will also hold a seat on DentaQuest’s national oral health connection team to share insight about the oral health of persons with disabilities and ACHIEVA’s work around increasing access to dental care for those with Medicaid insurance coverage.
The DentaQuest Foundation is the leading U.S. philanthropic entity focused solely on oral health. The DQF is supporting the development of the Oral Health 2020 network across the nation, a group of partners committed to working collectively at the national, state and community levels to eradicate dental disease in children and improve lifelong oral health.
For information about ACHIEVA’s Disability Healthcare Initiative, please contact Vanessa Rastovic, Esq., 412.995.5000 x569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.