ADEA State Update

Alternative Workforce Models Update

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As states continue to face access to dental care issues, many turn to alternative workforce models, such as dental therapy and expanding the scope of practice, in an effort to provide more access to care. Below is a synopsis of various proposals and/or resolutions on alternative workforce models under consideration in the states:

Utah passed SB 177, which expands the working scope of dental hygienists as well as the definition of “public health setting” for purposes of hygienists’ practice. Governor Gary Herbert signed the bill into law on March 30, 2015. The new law allows hygienists to provide services under a written agreement with a licensed dentist (expanded from the previous requirement of face-to-face supervision) within a public health setting. The law’s definition of a public health setting includes schools, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, community health centers, federally qualified health centers and mobile dental health programs. 

Vermont’s Senate passed S.20, a bill to establish licensure and regulation for dental therapists. The bill establishes the scope of practice for dental therapy, licensure requirements, oversight and supervision requirements and disciplinary procedures. The bill requires a dental hygienist to obtain a dental therapy certification and pass an examination. Currently, there is no dental therapy curriculum available in Vermont; however, Vermont Technical College says it is prepared to provide such training should the bill pass. The bill is now in the Vermont House of Representatives and has been referred to the Committee on Rules.

North Dakota passed a resolution, SCR 4004, calling for continued study of dental services, including a review of the infrastructure required to cost-effectively use mid-level providers. The state had requested such a study last year, but the legislature determined that the findings were insufficient to move forward with legislation in this Assembly. The new resolution calls for the study to continue and for the findings to be reported at the next meeting of the Legislative Assembly.

New Mexico’s Senate, prior to adjourning for the year, passed a memorial calling for a dental therapy task force to review possibilities for a dental therapy program and draft a bill establishing the licensure and practice of dental therapists. A dental therapy bill passed the New Mexico House this session, but the Senate did not take any action. The Senate thus requested this task force to present both proposed legislation and an oral presentation to the Health and Human Services Committee by Oct. 1, 2015. The task force comprises state legislators and oral health professionals recommended by the New Mexico dental association, dental hygienists’ association and Health Action New Mexico.

Hawaii’s legislature is considering a resolution calling for an analysis of the profession of dental therapists. The resolution passed through the House Committee on Health and is currently being reviewed by the House Committee on Consumer Protection & Commerce. The resolution requests the analysis to be performed and results submitted to the legislature prior to the convening of the 2016 session.

Duggan Dental