Eastern Washington University’s Dental Hygiene Department has received a $6,500 grant in support of its “Soaring to Wellness” project aimed at improving the oral health of the most at-risk Spokane area residents through coordinated community efforts.

The funding comes from MultiCare’s Community Partnership Grants for 2019. The program will target underserved populations by providing oral health education and preventive services. MultiCare will assist in the coordination of care through referral and outreach.

Implementation of the project will involve dental hygiene students and communication sciences and disorders students rotating monthly between five community groups. In addition to oral health education, students will provide screenings, limited dental treatment and coordination of follow up dental and hearing services at no charge.

“Current literature supports the relationship between chronic disease and oral health,” says EWU Dental Hygiene Chair Lisa Bilich. “We see this as an opportunity to create a healthier Spokane community.”

Bilich also notes the program will foster a strong sense of civic engagement in our students, who will be prepared to engage with their communities long after graduating.

Associate Professor of Dental Hygiene Merri Jones, who wrote the grant application, says the program will run through June 2020 and serve nearly 450 people in the community.

Christopher Wherity, Regional Director of Community Outreach at MultiCare; Merri Jones, RDH, BSDH, MSDH, Associated Professor of Dental Hygiene; Lisa Bilich, RDH, BSDH, MEd, Dental Hygiene Department Chair; Laureen O’Hanlon, PhD, CCC-SLP, Dean of the College of Health Sciences and Public Health.