State Update

Rhode Island Debates Public Health Dental Hygienists

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Reps. Joseph M. McNamara (D-RI) and K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-RI) have introduced H7984. The bill authorizes the practice of public health dental hygienists. According to the bill language, a public health dental hygienist may practice in a public health setting without the supervision or direction of a dentist. A written collaborative agreement is required between the hygienist and a state/local government agency, institution or dentist outlining the appropriate level of communication and consultation between the parties.

The bill also defines public health settings to include the following (this list is not exhaustive): schools, nursing homes, hospitals, community health centers and mobile and portable dental health programs. Additionally, the bill provides that public health dental hygienists shall be directly reimbursed for services administered in a public health setting by Medicaid or the state health care insurance program. However, in certain instances the bill text allows for a third-party payor.

On April 16, the bill was heard by the House Committee on Health, Education, and Welfare. The committee has recommended that the measure be held for further study.