Supporters of a local program that provides free dental services to low-income children announced Monday that more than $9,000 had been raised at a recent golf tournament.
The annual ABCD Golf Tournament at Canyon Lakes Golf Course in Kennewick is the only fundraiser for the Benton-Franklin Access to Baby and Child Dentistry program, which also receives money from the state's Health Care Authority.
Dr. Ron Snyder, the Richland dentist who has organized the tournament for 10 years, said about $8,000 will go to the program after all the bills are paid for the fundraiser -- an increase over the typical $7,000 raised in previous years.
The tournament has brought in about $80,000 in its decade of existence, a news release said.
The money pays the salary for the oral health program coordinator at the Benton-Franklin Health District, said Kathy Story, the woman holding the job.
Story's job previously was paid for by the state Department of Health, but she said that money dried up.
This year, the program will get $46,000 from the Health Care Authority to pay Story to coordinate with local dentists and get them trained as ABCD providers.
Being an ABCD-certified provider allows a dentist to get a higher rate of reimbursement from Medicaid for children from birth through age 5.
The higher reimbursements are an incentive for dentists to see children on Medicaid, she added.
Story said about 41 percent of Medicaid-eligible children in Benton County and 47 percent of Medicaid-eligible children in Franklin County went to the dentist in 2009 -- the last year for which data were available.
Most of those children saw an ABCD-certified dentist, she said.
It's important to make sure these children get dental care because Benton and Franklin counties have higher rates of tooth decay than the state average, primarily because of high-starch, high-sugar diets, Story said.
"Typically lower cost foods are higher in starches and sugars," she said.
Snyder said he has seen a reduction in dental disease because of the program, and so he's happy to support it.
"I just firmly believe in the program and that it helps keep down the cost of health care for the whole state," Snyder said. "Providing these services at no cost to the kids is a win-win for everybody. The kids get better health, the dentists get to see more patients and get paid a little, and the state saves money. The taxpayers save money."