Nothing makes me smile more than our new Building Healthy Smiles Initiative, born out of our Oral Health Collaborative. Over 100,000 children in Ventura County qualify for Denti-Cal and do not have access to a dental home, as less than 100 dentists accept their insurance. Tooth decay affects more children in the United States than any other chronic infectious disease. And yet, it is one of the most preventable. The consequences of untreated dental decay are great and it’s costing our community $1 million in hospital visits a year as a result. Tooth decay causes children pain, loss of sleep, reduced concentration and focus and school absences.
In California, students miss 874,000 days of school, resulting in a $30 million dollar loss in attendance based funding. Significant disparities also exist in children’s oral health conditions. Despite the expansion to children’s health coverage, access to regular, routine dental care continues to be a major problem. In Ventura County, only 38% of children covered by Medi-Cal visited a dentist last year. In 2015-16, there were over 300 ER visits by children to Ventura County hospitals for oral health problems. That is unacceptable and we’re doing something about it.
And you know what I love most about this initiative? It transcends all three core areas of our Community Impact agenda: Education, Income and Health. The old adage of being Wise, Wealthy and Healthy. And our work is made possible by a board of directors, who take pride in fiscal accountability, a staff who work tirelessly and along with you, our active community investors and volunteers who generously donate your time and treasure.
I’m grateful to be your President & CEO. And with that title comes tremendous responsibility. With our collective blessings comes tremendous responsibility. Responsibility to speak for one of the 100,000 children in our County, who need our help. Responsibility for sustainable funding to ensure that 2-1-1 is answered in time for someone who simply does not have time on their side. When you think of WE before ME, you are influencing the condition truly of all. That is what it means to LIVE UNITED.