Health Unit asks Province to Keep Supporting Kid's Dental Program

am800-news-nicole-dupuis-windsor-essex-county-health-unit-december-19-2019

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is asking the province to reconsider cuts to a dental program for kids.

Healthy Smiles Ontario provides children 17 years old and under from low-income households with dental care. The initiative has been paid for by the province as a "mandatory program" since 2010, but under the Ford government's 2019 Budget Protecting What Matters Most that's going to change.

Around $450,000 or 30 per cent of the cost will now be downloaded to local governments, and a motion asking the province to reverse course was unanimously approved at Thursday night's board meeting.

"Right now it hasn't changed our budget, but that portion of our budget being part of that cost share gets mixed in with every other program and service," says Director of Health Promotions Nicole Dupuis. "It does pose a risk when the municipalities have to make decision, it does put it at potential risk to be cut."

She says a six-month backlog of kids waiting for treatment means they need more funding, not less.

"We're limited by the number of people we can see in our clinics. We have increased over the past few years where we would see maybe 1,400 children for treatment in our clinics, now we're seeing around 8,000 a year," added Dupuis, who goes on to say the health unit currently operates a clinic in Windsor and Leamington.

Dupuis tells AM800 News Windsor-Essex has a higher than average poverty rate among youth, making the program imperative.

"If you don't have access to good oral health through a health care professional, that certainly will impact your oral health," she says.

The resolution will be sent to Queens Park, municipal governments and health officials across the province for support.