County dedicates $650,000 to improve child dental health

The Cumberland County Commissioners voted unanimously on Monday to dedicate $650,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to the Children’s Oral Health Network of Maine, to improve preventive oral health resources for children across the County.

Dental disease is linked to a number of systemic health issues, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, preterm/low birth weight babies, and many other serious health problems. It also impacts the entire community because of lost work hours, lost school days, people living in chronic pain, and unnecessary ER visits. Dental disease and the systemic issues it contributes to can be drastically mitigated, through prevention and early intervention; yet, nearly 30,000 children in Cumberland County are not currently receiving preventive dental care at all.

Strengthening the infrastructure for providing preventive oral healthcare was identified as a key priority in the recently released Cumberland County Community Health Improvement Plan. In response, the Public Health Department has identified key partners and a project that would lead to a more coordinated and sustainable children’s preventive oral health infrastructure for Cumberland County.

The County Public Health Department will work with the Children’s Oral Health Network of Maine over the next 3 years to complete a mapping and modeling project; coordinate partners to develop a sustainable system of coverage throughout the County; provide funding for additional equipment needed for service expansion; work with the State’s School Oral Health Project and Maine CDC to ensure sustainability; and plan for institutionalizing implementation beyond 2026.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the Cumberland County Commissioners awarded more than $750,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to worthy programs across the region. CDBG awards will support a range of projects, including park and boardwalk improvements in Standish and Westbrook; sidewalks in Windham’s South Village; energy efficiency improvements at the Long Island Library; a homelessness planning project in Scarborough; a public wharf in Harpswell; and home repairs and access ramp installations in homes across Cumberland County, among other items.