Progress on oral health care with #NativeHeroes in Washington state
Progress toward better dental care for kids and families in Indian Country—and across the U.S.—is on its way. That’s because of the work of leaders like Swinomish Tribal Chairman Brian Cladoosby.
Earlier this year, the Swinomish Tribe of northern Puget Sound made a groundbreaking announcement: one of its members will go to Alaska to become a Dental Health Aide Therapist, then return to provide dental care in her community.
Chairman Cladoosby, who made the announcement, has been a tireless advocate for bringing dental therapy not only to his own community, and Indian Country, but also to all communities in need across Washington. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, which will train the Swinomish member, introduced the United States’ first successful dental therapists more than a decade ago.
Here’s how Chairman Cladoosby described his tribe’s decision:
“Alaska has seen great success in solving a native problem with a native solution. We want to export that success to our community, [with] a Swinomish provider serving the Swinomish community in a dental clinic built by the Tribe on our land.”
As a sovereign tribe, the Swinomish have not only the right but the responsibility to serve its members. We honored the leadership and vision of Chairman Cladoosby and the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community three years ago, and we continue to do so today. They are leading the way to bring community-driven solutions to communities in need. While the Washington state legislature has failed to act to authorize dental therapy in Washington, the need continues to grow, both in Indian Country and throughout the state. Thirty-four of 39 Washington counties don’t have enough oral health professionals to serve kids and families, and dental complaints are the number-one reason uninsured residents visit the emergency room.
Together with the Washington Dental Access Campaign, Children’s Alliance will continue to support Tribal efforts and to advocate for solutions that will ensure every Washingtonian can get the dental health care we all need to stay healthy. Join the campaign today: www.wadentalaccess.com.