Sprinkle list: Senate bites off $8.5M to fund dental care program for people with disabilities
The dentist and patient are negotiating which teeth should be corrected by looking at the X-ray

The dentist and  patient agree that their teeth need to be repai
Individuals with developmental disabilities may need extra help achieving and maintaining good oral health.

Senators have earmarked $8.5 million in yearly funding for a new statewide dental care program for people with developmental disabilities. While details of the forthcoming initiative are sparse, one expert and advocate affirmed there is a “huge need” among people with developmental and intellectual disabilities for dental services.

The money set-aside, which will come from Florida’s General Revenue Fund¸ is part of a last-minute assortment of supplemental funding initiatives the Legislature compiles known as a “sprinkle list.” While most of the apportionments are for local and regional projects, some, like the dental care program, cover the entire state.

According to The Arc of Florida interim CEO Jim DeBeaugrine, the former secretary of Agency for Persons with Disabilities and a longtime advocate, the program will do a lot of good for people in need.

“This population has historically had real difficulty accessing dental care because their needs are so specific and unique, so finding people — health care professionals — who are willing to treat them has been a challenge,” he told Florida Politics. “This will be money well spent.”

For now, the program stands as an idea. According to the Senate sprinkle list, there was contemplation at some point of providing it with another $1.5 million.

Lawmakers already have appropriated funds to The Arc of Florida, which works and advocates on behalf of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, to provide dental care. The Arc Dental Program funds oral cancer screenings, crowns, root canals, fluoride treatment, fillings, extractions, dentures, partials, X-rays and cleanings.

The program also pays for all types of sedatives that may be necessary to work on the patients.

The Senate sprinkle document says it will provide the $8.5 million to the agency “to competitively procure a contract with a nonprofit for a statewide dental services program for the developmentally disabled.”

Numerous studies have found individuals with developmental disabilities may need extra help achieving and maintaining good health, including oral health. Tooth decay is common in people with developmental disabilities, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, which found several other oral maladies, including periodontal disease, malocclusion, damaging oral habits, oral malformations, delayed tooth eruptions and injury due to accidents and falling that occur more often and at a younger age in people with developmental disabilities.

Whether intentional or not, the earmark is timely; March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.

Both the House and Senate get millions in tax revenue to play with near the end of budget negotiations. That money is spread across different projects in what’s known in legislative parlance as the “sprinkle list.” The House and Senate released their “sprinkle lists” Wednesday evening. Leaders agreed on $759 million for local projects.

The release of the list is a sign budget negotiations are wrapped and the Legislature will hit its new planned end date of Monday, March 14.

___

Christine Sexton of Florida Politics contributed to this report.

Last updated on March 10, 2022

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.



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