More than $320,000 in grants expands oral health care access across Puget Sound region

Award announcements come during National Health Center Week, which recognizes nonprofit clinics’ vital role to support oral health, culturally appropriate care, equity.

SEATTLE–A healthy smile says more about you than how happy you are. It also reflects your overall health. Research links poor oral health to conditions like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and pregnancy complications. Good oral health is essential to good overall health.

In Washington state, not everyone has the same opportunities for good oral health. To expand oral health access so no one is left behind, Arcora Foundation is proud to partner with and fund International Community Health Services (ICHS) and Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe (PGST). Arcora awarded ICHS a $180,000 grant and a $142,292 grant to the PGST health center for capital improvements that will support the oral and overall health of the communities they serve.

“Community health centers are leaders in providing high quality care with a culturally appropriate approach,” said Arcora Foundation President and CEO Vanetta Abdellatif. “Arcora’s continued partnership with ICHS and PGST will ensure more people can get the care they need when and where they need it.”

The more than $320,000 in grant funding is part of Arcora’s long-term, statewide effort to reduce health disparities through increased dental care access. From 2017 through 2022, Arcora has invested nearly $12 million in grant funding in community health centers, nonprofit clinics, and other organizations dedicated to narrowing health gaps throughout the state. National Health Center Week—Aug. 6-12—is an annual event that celebrates and raises awareness of the country’s 1,400 community health centers.

About Arcora Foundation

Arcora Foundation advances oral health across Washington state. We are the foundation of Delta Dental of Washington, and the state’s largest foundation dedicated to this cause. We center our work in equity to achieve good oral health for all. Through partnerships, we focus our prevention and access priorities on racial and ethnic communities—specifically Black, Indigenous, and People of Color—where disparities in oral disease and access to care are significant. Our mission is in our name: bending the arc of oral health toward equity. Learn more at

About International Community Health Services

Founded in Seattle’s historic Chinatown-International District, the International Community Health Services provides culturally and linguistically appropriate health and wellness services to thousands of patients each year in 11 locations throughout the region. ICHS provides quality, affordable health care in more than 70 languages and dialects to anyone in need and to promote health equity for all. Learn more at

About Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe

The Port Gamble S’Klallam Health Center enhances the quality of life of the Tribe and its members by providing the highest quality health care through a culturally appropriate and holistic for individuals of all ages and their families. Its Community Health Center in Kingston serves the needs of PGST community members and enrolled Native individuals living in Kitsap County. Learn more at


We can’t do this work without you. Advancing oral health requires public and private partnerships, policy advocacy, and funding. Join us in our mission to bend the arc of oral health toward equity. Learn more and contact us at

Policy for sustainable oral health improvements

Spring trees and flowers bloom in front of the Washington state capitol building

Policy Director Alison Mondi shares highlights from the 2023 Legislative Session.

Washington state’s 2023 Legislative Session has concluded, and legislators are back in their home districts for the interim. It was a busy 105 days! Arcora Foundation is pleased to share the many wins for oral health and health equity.

Thanks to the dedication and advocacy of oral health providers, patient advocates, and oral health champions in the Legislature, lawmakers passed bills and budgets that support improved access to oral health care, prevention of disease, and a more robust workforce. Arcora works alongside provider organizations, patient advocates, community-based organizations, and others as we pursue meaningful systems change to reduce disparities and further oral health equity.

Here is a summary of the oral health measures that passed this session. We look forward to continued work with advocacy partners, legislative champions, and other state leaders on implementation.

Community Water Fluoridation

ESHB 1251, which requires 90 days of public notice before a decision to stop or start community water fluoridation, passed the House and Senate with unanimous votes and was signed by Gov. Inslee on April 20.

Fluoridation is an effective and equitable way to prevent tooth decay. This legislation will help ensure residents, as well as their dental and medical providers, have timely and accurate information about a decision that impacts their health and wellbeing. Thank you to prime sponsor Rep. Monica Stonier, Senate companion prime sponsor Sen. June Robinson, and everyone who advocated for this important public health measure!

“Tooth decay is preventable and yet it is the number one chronic disease facing children. Parents and providers need to know if their water system is considering changing its fluoridation status in order to take the needed steps to protect oral health, which is why I strongly support ESHB 1251.”

Dr. Elisabeth Warder, Dental Director, CHAS Health

Apple Health (Medicaid) Dental and Access to Care

The final operating and capital budgets included funding to support increased access to oral health care for Apple Health enrollees and Washingtonians who face challenges accessing dental care.

Two improvements for the Apple Health dental program will go into effect on January 1, 2024:

  • A 40% reimbursement rate increase for pediatric dental cleanings (code D1120) in the Apple Health program to support access to preventive oral health care for kids.
  • An increase in the allowable number of periodontal treatments (code D4910) to up to four per 12-month period for adult Medicaid enrollees with diabetes to support better health outcomes.

The Legislature also continued the public/private partnership for DentistLink, which works to support providers and connect more patients to care. DentistLink—fully funded by Arcora and the Washington State Health Care Authority—is a no-cost referral service that connects people with Apple Health (Medicaid) or no insurance to care.

The capital budget includes funding to increase dental clinic capacity with seven projects at six Community Health Centers. The projects will serve people with low-incomes, communities of color, and those in rural areas. Funding these projects will increase access to oral health services by providing an additional 37,503 dental appointments.

Legislators also passed SHB 1683 (Rep. Stephanie Barnard), which requires stand-alone dental carriers to pay for covered denture services, with the goal of increasing access to care.

Oral Health Workforce

Access to timely and culturally relevant care is only possible with an adequate and representative oral health workforce. We’re pleased legislators took up this issue and passed several measures aimed at increasing the oral health workforce and supporting a more diverse workforce:

  • ESHB 1503 requires collection of health care professionals’ demographic information at the time of license application and license renewal. Thank you to Rep. Marcus Riccelli for championing this measure to support better information about the composition of our workforce!
  • Several bills will make it easier for hygienists trained in other states to work in Washington: ESHB 1576 (Rep. Michelle Caldier), HB 1287 (Rep. My-Linh Thai), and ESHB 1466 (Rep. Marcus Riccelli).
  • SB 5113 permits out-of-state dentists to practice as faculty at all accredited dental schools in Washington.

“Passage of ESHB 1503 is a significant step forward to helping to identify health care gaps across our state, especially in rural areas and for historically underrepresented populations.”

Lolinda Turner, Program Manager for Dental Workforce Diversity & Inclusion, Delta Dental of Washington

In a significant milestone, legislators passed ESHB 1678 (Rep. Marcus Riccelli), which authorizes dental therapy in federally qualified health centers (FQHCs). Dental therapists are mid-level dental providers who work under the supervision of a dentist and provide prevention as well as a limited set of restorative services for patients. Dental therapy is currently only authorized in Tribal settings in Washington.

Legislators also funded several budget items to support the oral health workforce:

  • Continued funding for a University of Washington Center for Health Workforce Studies program to track dental workforce trends.
  • Funding to support the startup of the dental therapy education program at Skagit Valley College in partnership with the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community.
  • Funding for the Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences (PNWU) School of Dental Medicine Community Health Partnership. This partnership places students in rural and underserved community settings after the first year, where they will receive hands-on clinical training observed by a supervising dentist.

None of these wins would be possible without so many partners across the state and in the Legislature who tirelessly advocate for policy changes that support providers; increase access to timely and culturally relevant care; and prevent oral disease.

If you have questions about the 2023 Legislative Session, or would like to discuss potential areas of collaboration for future legislative sessions, please reach out to

Alison Mondi
Policy Director, Arcora Foundation

We can’t do this work without you. Advancing oral health requires public and private partnerships, policy advocacy, and funding. Join us in our mission to bend the arc of oral health toward equity. Learn more and contact us at

Juneteenth honors Black Americans’ past

For a healthier future, equity is essential.

For Juneteenth, we recognize how far Black Americans have come from the enslavement of our ancestors. We honor our struggles and successes. We celebrate our rich culture and our resilient spirit. Black joy embodies this optimism and passion for a bright future. 

Black joy also embraces the ability to achieve good oral and overall health. Both are essential to reach your full health potential. Poor oral health is linked to diabetes, heart disease, and other serious or life-threatening conditions. In Washington state, data show disparities in oral health care by race and ethnicity. 

At Arcora Foundation and Delta Dental of Washington, we advance equity in oral health. Our shared vision is that everyone enjoys good oral and overall health with no one left behind. We are leaning into that vision through efforts to empower Black people and others who have previously been left behind across Washington state toward positive change. Here are examples of what we are doing: 

Dental Professional Pathways Program—This program introduces youth from historically underrepresented groups to careers in the dental field. Studies show the lack of diversity in the field is linked to oral health disparities. 

Policy work—Action at the policy level brings sustainable change to systems. These changes expand prevention resources and access to care to include more people. We collaborate with policymakers, lobbyists, and local and state elected officials to advance our policy priorities. Wins for oral health from the 2023 legislative session include: 

  • Gov. Inslee signed a bill into law that requires a 90-day public notice before water systems stop or start community water fluoridation. I had the pleasure to watch the governor sign this bill! Rural, low-income, and underserved communities suffer most from lack of access to fluoridation. As a result, adults and children needlessly suffer from oral health problems. Research shows community water fluoridation is the most cost-effective, equitable way to prevent cavities and tooth decay in people of all ages and backgrounds.

  • $500,000 over the 2023-2025 biennium to continue the public-private partnership with the Washington State Health Care Authority (HCA) so DentistLink can continue to connect more patients with access challenges to care. DentistLink is a no-cost referral service that connects people with Apple Health (Medicaid) or no insurance to care. Arcora and the HCA fully fund DentistLink. 

  • $328,000—state and federal funding combined—over the 2023-2025 biennium to improve the Medicaid periodontal maintenance benefit for people with diabetes statewide (takes effect Jan. 1, 2024).  

  • The governor signed a bill into law that authorizes dental therapy statewide. The new law allows Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and FQHC look-alike clinics to hire dental therapists. The law expands access to care to more people who otherwise might not be able to afford it. 
I had the privilege to connect with young scientists as part of the Dental Professional Pathways Program’s partnership with the Storm Academy.
Arcora Foundation, Delta Dental of Washington, and partners witness Governor Inslee sign ESHB1251 into law.

I am excited about Arcora’s and Delta Dental of Washington’s continued work with partners on these and other upstream interventions. Progress toward greater equity in oral health is happening. Our sustained efforts move us closer to a time when everyone—no matter their background—is cavity-free. 

Happy Juneteenth!  

Vanetta Abdellatif
President and CEO, Arcora Foundation

Health literacy and outreach key to good oral health in the AANHPI community

Sunshine Monastrial and family enjoy a beach outing.

Nonprofits leverage Arcora project grants and community expertise to improve oral and overall health for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander community members. 

Hi there! I’m Sunshine, Arcora Foundation’s vice president. I’m honored to share a bit about my background and introduce 2 organizations working to remove barriers to good oral and overall health for our state’s Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI*) community. 

As an immigrant from the Philippines, cavities were an expected part of my childhood. My family and I weren’t taught about the importance of prevention until we started seeing a dentist in the U.S. My young smile had several cavities from eating too much candy and not enough brushing and flossing. Thankfully, our new family dentist was able to address these cavities and start me on a path to good oral health. 

I’m grateful to my parents for ensuring that my sister and I started seeing the dentist early on after we arrived in the U.S. But for too many families, barriers to care continue to exist. In Washington state, kindergarten and third-grade children whose primary language spoken in the home is not English have more than a 50% higher rate of treatment need for oral health concerns than English-only speakers. 

We also see racial and ethnic disparities impacting our state’s Pacific Islander communities. Among second and third graders, 75% of Pacific Islander children live with untreated oral disease —a condition that is largely preventable with equitable access to dental care and at-home oral hygiene supplies. 

“Oral disease disproportionally affects the poor and socially disadvantaged members of our community. There is a very strong and consistent association between socioeconomic status (income, occupation, and educational level) and the prevalence and severity of oral diseases. That is why Arcora Foundation partners with organizations across the state with a focus on good oral and overall health for all with no one left behind.”

Carol Nelson
Arcora Foundation Trustee

Arcora partners with community-based organizations to remove barriers and ensure people of all backgrounds have the education and access to care they need to reach their full health potential. This approach is grounded in our 2022-2024 strategic plan.

*Note: The term “AANHPI” highlights the collective strength and advocacy of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities. Arcora recognizes the power of this larger group while also advocating for more disaggregated data around race. Through disaggregated data, we can better identify and address inequities of various communities that fall within the AANHPI community.

Removing barriers to health literacy and culturally appropriate care. 

During my 11 years at International Community Health Services, I saw how multiple, intertwined barriers to care can impact the health outcomes of the AANHPI community. Like my own childhood experience, Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants may come from cultures where the importance of prevention in oral health isn’t emphasized—or the health care system is structured much differently than in the U.S. 

Along with this cultural difference, it can be difficult to navigate a health care system when English is not your primary language. In the U.S., an overwhelming majority of Asian immigrants (86%) say they speak a language other than English at home, along with more than 25% of Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders. Linguistically and culturally appropriate care is critical to improve health equity for a large percentage of our state’s population. 

Arcora is pleased to support community-based nonprofits through our project grant funding. I invite to you to now meet 2 amazing organizations leading efforts to address these barriers—including language and culturally appropriate services—for their Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander community members. 

UTOPIA team members host outreach table at Burien Pride.

UTOPIA Washington

Mission: Actively replacing systems of oppression with ecosystems of care and safety for all our communities through Black and Brown organizing, prioritizing land and bodily autonomy, and reclaiming our cultural narratives.

Vision: A world of abundance, autonomy, and harmony, where all forms of supremacy cease to exist for all life.

Tell us about UTOPIA’s oral health project.

“With the help of Arcora’s project grant funding, UTOPIA Washington aims to provide community (Queer and Trans Pacific Islanders, Queer and Trans BIPoC, and all 2SLGBTQIA+) education and information surrounding oral health care access. We’ll do this through an approach and health initiative that is culturally sensitive and culturally informed. 

“This multi-pronged approach will include several key components: a needs assessment survey, case management, client assistance, and an educational community outreach campaign. Through these efforts, we can best understand and address the unique needs of our community members and the barriers that surround access and availability of dental care. UTOPIA will provide for the needs of community when accessing dental care in the forms of transportation, client resource coordination, childcare, and in-depth case management.

“The goals of this project are: 

  • Capture accurate and up-to-date data and analysis of queer and trans Pacific Islander and BIPoC 2SLGBTQIA+ community members access to and barriers surrounding oral health care. 
  • Increase and improvement of community education and awareness of oral health care information, access, and availability. 
  • Continue to assess and provide resources for dental and medical care information through case management and care work coordination.
  • Use culturally informed and sensitive language translations and interpreters for survey, case management, and distribution of data/informational campaigns (in various Pacific Islander languages).”

What would you like others to know about UTOPIA, your community, and your work to improve health equity?

“Since its inception, UTOPIA Washington’s work has been steeped in the barriers, challenges and experiences of QTPI/QTBIPoC (Queer and Transgender Pacific Islanders/Queer and Transgender Black, Indigenous, People of Color) who face pervasive racism, xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia in ways that impact their safety, health, sense of wellness, and desire to build a positive future for themselves and their families here in the diaspora and back in their island nations.

“We also understand that band-aid solutions need to be coupled with strategies that get at the root of all forms of supremacy. UTOPIA offers our services to all, but are aware, mindful, and wanting to also make a positive impact on immigrant, refugee, and communities of color. As the targets of many oppressions, our community is at risk. This is why UTOPIA is such an essential landing place for the QTPI and QTBIPoC community in the region. We provide healing spaces and serve as a trusted, culturally aligned resource for QTPI/QTBIPoC to access HIV+ prevention resources, health services, behavioral health support, housing and other essential services, education and youth outreach, policy, systems, and legislature education and advocacy, and a caring community.”

CISC hosts health care workshop.

Chinese Information and Service Center (CISC)

Mission: We support immigrants and their families by creating opportunities for them to succeed, while honoring their heritage.

Tell us about CISC’s oral health project.

“With Arcora project grant funding, CISC will provide person-centered support to assist community members with dental care needs, from information and consultation to appointment and transportation scheduling with dental clinics and care facility when needed. CISC clients without dental coverage will be connected to free resources such as community health clinics, University of Washington and King County Public Health dental clinics, or other oral health programs.

“CISC clients can make appointments with our program specialist who will help them navigate the often complicated and intimidating health care system, including applying for Medicaid and Medicare, finding a provider, translation of health care documents, transportation assistance, and more. To ensure success, our team will support clients through the enrollment process and follow up with their cases to monitor their progress.

“Our goal is to make sure everyone will have access to equitable dental service and care.”

What would you like others to know about CISC, your community, and your work to improve health equity?

“CISC’s Healthcare Access and Outreach Program connects ethnic Chinese immigrants to quality and affordable health care through education, information, outreach, and individualized, person-centered support. We strive to advance access to equitable health care by breaking down cultural, language, and technology barriers for our clients and addressing their overall health and wellness needs to reduce health disparities. Through a holistic, bilingual/bicultural approach, we ensure that fair and unbiased health care services are available in the community, regardless of language, ethnicity, gender, income, social, and/or economic status.

“Moreover, our ‘No Wrong Door’ policy creates a flexible, person-centered response to meeting the health care needs of our community. CISC helps to eliminate gaps in services and programs that can arise when working with multiple agencies and/or agencies that are not able to provide culturally responsive services, thus increasing equity in health care.

“We understand that oral health is important for overall health and wellbeing, and poor oral hygiene can have a negative impact on quality of life. Therefore, we educate and promote public awareness of good oral hygiene, so people can have better overall health and reduce the risk of certain illnesses.”

We can’t do this work without you. Advancing oral health requires public and private partnerships, policy advocacy, and funding. Join us in our mission to bend the arc of oral health toward equity. Learn more and contact us at

How public health supports equity in oral health

Community leadership and expertise are key to prevent disease and improve access to dental care.

Good oral health is more than a healthy smile. Where we live, learn, work, worship, and play affect our oral and overall health. During National Public Health Week, Arcora Foundation recognizes how our unique cultures and communities not only influence our wellbeing—but give us the tools to thrive.

What is public health?

Public health promotes and protects your health and your community’s health. The focus is on disease prevention and healthy behaviors. Examples of how public health impacts oral health include:

  • Expanded access to fluoridated tap water, which is the most cost-effective and equitable way to prevent cavities for people of all backgrounds.
  • Free dental clinics hosted at community gathering spaces, such as food banks and community centers.
  • Health education, outreach, and care navigation provided in languages spoken in a community.
  • Awareness campaigns on the health impacts of choosing water over sugary beverages.

“Good oral health is essential to good overall health. The State Department of Health and Arcora Foundation share the belief that everyone in Washington deserves a healthy smile. I’ve appreciated the partnership with Arcora over the years on efforts that support good oral health as a public health priority. That work includes the Smile Survey, assisting local water systems with community water fluoridation, supporting the Washington State Oral Health Coalition, and more. Our work together continues to ensure everyone has the prevention and access resources they need for a lifetime of good oral health.”

Shelley Guinn RDH, MPH
State Oral Health Program Coordinator
Washington State Department of Health

Arcora partners with state and local organizations to champion these and other public health efforts. Community-based solutions and respect for cultural norms and values can lead to the most meaningful progress. Through community learning grants and engagement opportunities, we center lived experiences in ongoing, collaborative partnerships to improve oral health outcomes.

Community health workers: innovators in public health.

Community health workers (CHWs) are trusted public health advocates and community navigators. One longstanding and valued partner, Community Health Worker Coalition for Migrants and Refugees (CHWCMR), leads innovative CHW practices to achieve health equity and social and environmental justice for migrant and refugee communities in Washington state.

Ileana Ponce-Gonzalez, founder and executive director of CHWCMR, explains the key role CHWs play in improving public health.

How do CHWs support public health?

Community health workers are trusted members of the community. They act as public health professionals, come from the communities in which they carry out their work, and act as defenders or representatives of community members. They bring together individuals in need of health care, helping them understand and have access to health education and services. Here are three ways CHWs promote public health:

1. Provide reach and cultural links that go beyond the traditionally underserved communities to increase access to care, ease of use, and use of health resources.

2. Reduce costs to both providers and patients through prevention, health education, and early detection of disease and medical care emergencies.

3. Help the communication between patient and provider, facilitate continuity of care, and act as advocate and guide for the patient within the health care system to improve the quality of care.

What challenges do migrants and refugees face in achieving good oral and overall health?

CHWCMR has more than 11 years of working with migrant and seasonal farm workers in our state. People we work with can have financial and language barriers. Health care providers can lack empathy for them, which can make them feel lost and resigned. Because they live in rural areas, this population can face additional barriers that include:

  • Access to fresh food—processed foods as alternatives, which can be high in preservatives and salt.
  • Safe drinking water—sugary beverages as alternatives, which pose risk factors for cavities, diabetes, and other health concerns.
  • Access to care—Washington has many Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). For communities such as Vista Hermosa in Pasco, the nearest FQHC is 40 miles away.

CHWs are essential to work against these barriers. Our farmworkers, migrants, and refugees have limited time to make medical or dental appointments, and many of them lack transportation and housing.

How has partnering with Arcora Foundation supported CHWCMR’s work to improve oral and overall health for migrant and refugee community members?

Since 2017, CHWCMR has collaborated with Arcora Foundation to improve oral health in migrant and underserved populations. We worked together on a series of project and community-based oral health education programs. All our programs use a CHW model. Here are some examples:

  • 2023—project to decrease consumption of sugary beverages, increase consumption of fluoridated water, and make dentist appointments through Arcora’s DentistLink tool for 20 participants.
  • 2021—conducted an oral health needs assessment in Spanish of 91 participants by phone in the Tri-Cities and Olympia and King, Pierce, Skagit, Snohomish, and Yakima counties.
  • 2017-2020—workshops taught 784 participants about the importance of good oral hygiene, regular dental visits, and healthy eating and drinking habits through 36 workshops.

Excerpt from CHW training flipbook

“Thank you for giving us the opportunity to improve oral health disparity in this state. We need more support because the gap between oral health education and services and our community is abysmal. We need not only economic support, but also organizations like Arcora to advocate for our work and accomplishments. We are the people on the front lines, the ones who know and work with the community.”

Ileana Ponce-Gonzalez, MD, MPH
Founder and Executive Director
Community Health Worker Coalition for Migrants and Refugees

Centering communities and cultures in strategic direction.

Arcora strives to demonstrate a greater capacity for equitable practices and public health policies to better engage with communities as an authentic partner. We center community expertise in our work to achieve good oral health for those who face barriers to dental care—especially in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities. We invite you to visit our 2023 Community Report to learn more about recent milestones toward a healthier, more equitable future for all.

About National Public Health Week

During the first full week of April each year, the American Public Health Association brings together communities across the United States to observe National Public Health Week as a time to recognize the contributions of public health and highlight issues that are important to improving our nation’s health. For 2023, we are “Centering and Celebrating Cultures in Health” to ensure everyone, in all cultural communities, has a chance at a long and healthy life. To do so, we must address and prevent the underlying causes of poor health and disease risk. We can use social determinants of health to understand how those causes are different for each person based on various factors like race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and financial situation.