Patient Care

Golisano Foundation and Eastman Institute Partner to Help People with Developmental Disabilities

Jan. 23, 2012
Each week, Dr. Wayne Lipschitz treats patients with developmental disabilities in the operating room.

The B. Thomas Golisano Foundation and Eastman Institute for Oral Health at the University of Rochester Medical Center today announced a partnership to address the unmet oral health needs of people with developmental disabilities in the Rochester area.

 While it is widely known that there is a critical lack of trained and experienced dental providers to work with people with developmental disabilities, no concrete data exists related to the extent and type of unmet need for the estimated 135,000 New Yorkers affected.

 A newly formed community taskforce of experts will, for the first time ever, engage the community and help in the process of gathering reliable data in Monroe, Livingston, Ontario, Orleans and Wayne counties to determine the areas of significant need, clarify available resources, identify gaps and barriers for meeting needs, and develop realistic and practical recommendations to improve this complex situation.

The taskforce is led by Cyril Meyerowitz, D.D.S., director of Eastman Institute for Oral Health, which treats hundreds of patients with developmental disabilities and is the safety net provider for underserved populations. Other members include Project Coordinator Larry Belle, Ph.D., representatives from EIOH and the UR Medical Center, Rochester General Hospital, Finger Lakes Developmental Disabilities Services Office, CP Rochester, community service providers, parent advocates, dentists and dental hygienists. The taskforce will call upon national experts including Paul Glassman, D.D.S., director of Community Oral Health at the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry in California, and Steve Perlman, D.D.S., senior global clinical advisor and founder, Special Olympics Special Smiles and professor of Pediatric Dentistry at Boston University School of Dental Medicine.

“Dental care is frequently cited one of the leading unmet healthcare need among individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities,” said Ann Costello, director of the Golisano Foundation, which is funding the study. “This project is a critical first step toward improving oral health care for these individuals in our region. We know anecdotally that this is a longstanding problem so we are rolling up our sleeves to expedite this process. We have the right people around the table who can help us determine how best to proceed to improve access and availability of care. We’ll look forward to seeing the results of the task force and how we can address their recommendations.”

Several factors contribute to the poor oral health and hygiene of people with developmental disabilities, including physical limitations, complex medical conditions, behavioral issues, and increased incidence of early decay. Other challenges arise due to access, transportation, insurance, and the small number of available dentists who can accommodate the unique needs of this population.

 A project -- has been established. Family members, caregivers, group home staff, medical and dental providers are encouraged to visit to provide input, and join the discussion about how to break down barriers and find ways to improve oral health care for people with developmental disabilities in our area.

“It’s estimated that 80 percent of adults with developmental disabilities now live in group homes, and the issues around measuring and tracking how patients receive care have become very complex and multi-layered,” said Meyerowitz. EIOH treats hundreds of patients with developmental disabilities and is the safety net provider for underserved populations “The website will serve as a central portal for stakeholders to provide critical information, as well as find resources and share ideas.”

By summertime, the task force will have formed recommendations that will be used to seek support from state and federal agencies and foundations for launching a program designed to significantly improve the oral health services available to all people with developmental disabilities.

The B. Thomas Golisano Foundationis one of the largest private foundations in the nation devoted exclusively to supporting programs for people with developmental disabilities so that they may achieve their maximum potentials by integrating independence, self-determination, and productivity into all facets of their lives.

Eastman Institute for Oral Health is a world leader in research and post-doctoral education in general and pediatric dentistry, orthodontics, periodontics, prosthodontics and oral surgery. Patients are seen at many sites throughout the Rochester community.