Dental Public Health Activities: Descriptive Summaries
Statutory Mandate for State Oral Health Program
The Arkansas Office of Oral Health has had many ups and downs in its four-decade history. With changes in administrations and state health officers, the program has had strong, limited or no support depending on priorities within state agencies. Following the retirement of the previous state dental director in 1997, the position was vacant for almost two years. Maintenance of a state oral health program is often dependent on current policy makers at the state level. Without a legislative mandate, oral health programs are often on the cutting block in hard economic times. With a mandate, legislators and state health officials have more reason to maintain the oral health program and to give it the support required for success. A coalition of supporters (included the state dental association, the state dental hygiene association, the primary care association and Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families) donated time, efforts and expertise in the development of a bill to mandate a state oral health program and its passage as law. Working with the Arkansas State Dental Association, the Office of Oral Health offered wording suggestions for the bill. The dental association drafted the bill and had a state representative sponsor it. The bill passed both houses of the legislature unanimously and the governor signed it into law in 2001. The statutory mandate for the state oral health program states:
The existence of the new legislation was paramount to the continued existence of the state oral health program during budget cuts enacted less than one month after passage. Without the new mandate, oral health would certainly have been subjected to increased pressure to downsize or be eliminated. Instead, budget discussions were specifically steered away from oral health at the direction of the state health officer.
During the 2005 session of the Arkansas General Assembly, at the direction of Governor Mike Huckabee, the health department was merged with social services to create the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The mandate for the oral health program, including the exact same language mandating the oral health program, was part of the merger legislation.
During the 2007 session of the Arkansas General Assembly, at the direction of Governor Mike Beebe, DHHS was de-merged into separate departments of health and social services. Again, the exact same language mandating the oral health program was included in the legislation.
Contact Person(s) for Inquiries:
Lynn Douglas Mouden, DDS, MPH, Director, Office of Oral Health, Arkansas Department of Health, 4815 W. Markham Street, Slot 18, Little Rock, AR 72205, Phone: 501-661-2595, Fax: 501-661-2240, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org