Bridging the gap: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month and the vitality of oral health

By Carmen Mendez

As we celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, it is a time for reflection on the cultural values and experiences that have shaped our lives. For me, the significance of this month is deeply intertwined with my journey to understand the importance of oral health, a lesson that was often overlooked during my upbringing in rural Mexico.

Growing up, oral health was not a priority in my family or community. We lacked access to proper dental care, and the consequences of this neglect soon became evident. I, like many others, found myself plagued by cavities and dental issues at a young age. The discomfort and pain were a constant reminder of the importance of good oral hygiene, but the means to address these issues were scarce.

These early experiences shaped my perception of dentists. Visits to the dentist were filled with fear and anxiety, as the memory of painful treatments lingered. When I eventually moved to the United States, I brought this apprehension with me. My relationship with dental care remained strained, as the trust I needed to place in my new dentist was hard to come by.

It was only after years of living in the United States that I began to understand that oral health is an integral part of overall health. The connection between oral health and one’s well-being is undeniable. It affects not only our ability to eat, speak, and smile but also our self-esteem and confidence. This realization was a turning point in my life.

Today, as an Arcora Foundation trustee, I have the privilege of being part of an organization that is committed to making a difference in the lives of individuals like me, who have faced challenges in accessing dental care. Our goal is to break down the barriers that prevent people from achieving good oral health. We collaborate with partners to reach communities that face barriers to care, provide education on oral hygiene, and advocate for policies and systems changes that promote oral health equity.

Hispanic Heritage Month serves as a reminder of the rich tapestry of cultures that make up this country. It is also a time to recognize the disparities that persist in various aspects of life, including health care. Oral health, often overlooked, is a critical component of overall well-being. It is a reminder that there is much work to be done in bridging the gap and ensuring that everyone, regardless of their background, can enjoy good oral health.

In celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, let us also celebrate the progress being made in advancing oral health equity. My journey from a childhood marked by dental neglect to becoming an Arcora Foundation trustee is a testament to the transformative power of understanding and prioritizing oral health. Together, we can bend the arc of oral health toward equity, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to smile confidently and live a healthier life.

Carmen Mendez

Carmen Mendez is an Arcora Foundation trustee and director of food access network and allocation at Northwest Harvest.

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

$120,000 in funding supports continued access to care for Washingtonians in need

Grants to community health centers will help efforts to maintain coverage for people with Apple Health (Medicaid).

People with limited income and resources may face barriers to access health care. That’s where Apple Health (Medicaid) comes in. According to the Washington State Health Care Authority (HCA), more than 2 million Washingtonians have access to dental, medical, and other services because of Apple Health.

Funding from Arcora Foundation will help people with Apple Health keep their coverage. Arcora awarded $120,000 in grants to Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) across the state to conduct Apple Health outreach and enrollment activities. FQHCs are federally funded nonprofit health centers or clinics where people who are underserved can get care.

Arcora provided this funding  because of a big change to Apple Health eligibility requirements—known as the Medicaid Unwind. During the COVID-19 public health emergency, Apple Health maintained continuous coverage for people, waiving the requirement that clients re-confirm their eligibility status. As a result of this temporary rule change—as well as the pandemic’s effects on the economy—many Washingtonians signed up for Apple Health who never had it before. Enrollees received continuous Apple Health coverage throughout the public health emergency.

When the public health emergency ended in the spring of 2023, Apple Health reverted to the pre-pandemic requirements that people with Apple Health verify they’re still eligible for coverage. If they don’t, they may lose it. Because so many Washingtonians signed up for Apple Health during the pandemic and never had to re-verify their eligibility, thousands are at risk of losing coverage. The HCA, Health Benefit Exchange, managed care organizations, providers, community-based organizations, and others are reaching out to families and individuals affected by this change. Here’s more information from the HCA on the Medicaid Unwind and what clients can expect.

These 6 FQHCs received $20,000 each. The funds will support activities to maintain Apple Health coverage for people in their communities:

Apple Health is critical to helping people connect to care who might not otherwise have access. When more people access care, they are better able to  reach their full health potential. Thank you to FQHCs across the state that share Arcora’s  vision that all people enjoy good oral and overall health with no one left behind, and that work tirelessly to achieve it.

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

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