Dental Home for Refugees

At the end of 2019, approximately 79.5 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide. Washington State is consistently among the top five states with the highest refugee populations, most from Burma, Bhutan, the Former Soviet Union, Iraq and Eritrea. The long journey of a refugee results in many ignored or otherwise unmet health needs that begin at their country of origin and continue during their time in refugee camps. In the United States, refugees become legal citizens gaining Medicaid coverage, and go through a comprehensive medical assessment. However, this assessment does not requirement a comprehensive oral health exam.

Since 2018, we have been working on integrating oral health in the resettlement process in Washington State. In 2019, we were awarded the Morell Fund to access baseline state aggregated Medicaid data for Medicaid utilization, for 2015 to 2018, from the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Health and Human Services (DSHS) and Health Care Authority (HCA). In late 2019, we started our collaboration with World Relief, an organization dedicated to serve and help immigrants, as they are an integral part of the resettlement process for refugees in Washington State.

Our overarching goal is to scale up integration of oral health assessment as part of the medical assessment within all clinics who offer the medical examination to newly arriving refugees. We hope this research and community connections will lead to a state policy change to require oral health care and referrals to be part of the resettlement process for refugees. The DeRouen Center plans to start efforts here in Seattle to improve the access to care for people around the world. R.E.F.U.G.E.E.S Project for Oral Health (PDF)

Seattle Refugee Project poster