Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan presented CareFree Dental of Dickinson and Florence with $15,000 in grant funding to help underserved and uninsured people in the region gain access to dental health care and treatment as part of Blue Cross’ Strengthening the Safety Net grant program. In 2013, CareFree Dental saw 276 patients for dental care and treatment, with half of those patients being first-time clinic visitors. Throughout that year, the clinic’s volunteer dentists performed 203 extractions and 81 restorations, free of charge. Patients have said that without CareFree Dental, they would have nowhere else to seek dental treatment. If they visit the emergency room, they are given an antibiotic for temporary relief, but still need dental care. More than 12 percent of the Dickinson County population has no health insurance. “CareFree Dental of Dickinson and Florence staff and volunteers are extremely grateful to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for supporting us and our effort to provide quality care to people in our community, many of them seeing a dentist for the first time in their lives,” said Ted Fornetti, CareFree Dental board member. “We see firsthand the growing demand for dental care in our community. This grant from Blue Cross is vital to building a healthy community here in the Upper Peninsula.” According to county health rankings, 28 percent of adults of Dickinson County are avid smokers, compared to 20 percent in Michigan overall. Smokers generally have worse teeth than non-smokers. Without access to dental care and treatment, their oral health will continue to decline. “Safety net clinics like CareFree Dental of Dickinson and Florence provide access to care for uninsured Michigan families and without these clinics, people would delay and even forego treatment at great cost to themselves, their families and the health care system,” said Jeff Connolly, senior vice president of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Large Group Business and president West Michigan. “Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is proud to support clinics, health professionals and volunteers across Michigan, dedicated to helping families access quality dental care and stay healthy.” With the distribution of the 2014 Strengthening the Safety Net grants, Blue Cross has provided more than $10 million to support safety net providers across Michigan since the grant program was created in 2005. The grants have enabled clinics to care for more than 60,000 people annually and have accounted for more than 1 million patient medical visits. The 2014 grants can be applied to daily operations and enrollment assistance for the Healthy Michigan Plan. “Our community is grateful to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for its support and for the outstanding work that CareFree Dental of Dickinson and Florence does every day to help families stay healthy in our community,” said State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba. “What we’re doing in our community can be a model for effective, efficient dental care and treatment throughout the Upper Peninsula and across Michigan. Partnerships like this among health care professionals, the private sector, volunteers and the community can show us the way forward for the future of health care.” State Rep. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, said, “Dental care is critical to overall health and this support from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan will directly help many families in our community. Patients in the Upper Peninsula can now get critical dental care and access to quality treatment and medications that can make a real difference in our community’s health and quality of life. This partnership can help us make sure that people in our community don’t get left behind when it comes to getting quality care.” The Strengthening the Safety Net grant was presented at CareFree Dental Clinic on Friday, Dec. 12. For more information on Blue Cross’ Strengthening the Safety Net program, visit bcbsm.com/safetynet. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit mutual insurance company, is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. BCBSM provides and administers health benefits to more than 4.4 million members residing in Michigan in addition to employees of Michigan-headquartered companies who reside outside the state. For more company information, visit bcbsm.com and MiBluesPerspectives.com.
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