Michigan Authorizes Dental Therapy!

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On December 28, 2018, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed into law SB 541, which would allow dental therapists to practice in the state of Michigan! Tribes in the state have expressed eagerness to add these providers to their oral health care team.
The new law had been considered by the legislature for several years. It received an initial vote in the state Senate in October 2017, but languished in a state House committee. Thanks to the efforts of advocates, Tribal and non-Tribal, the bill received enough support in the House to pass in December 2018.
The new law allows dental therapists to apply for licenses with the state and practice within the scope of their license at hospitals, Federally Qualified Health Centers, Tribal clinics, Urban Indian Health facilities, and other settings within the state. The bill take effect immediately, but the state still must finalize rules, such as Medicaid reimbursement rates for services performed by a dental therapist.
The National Indian Health Board (NIHB) has long advocated for innovative solutions to reduce oral health disparities in Indian Country. Tribes in Alaska, Washington State, and Oregon are already using this innovative workforce model of focused oral healthcare providers, and many Tribes across the country have expressed a desire to bring dental therapy to their communities.
Governor Snyder signed the bill into law shortly before leaving office. The new Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, will oversee the law's implementation. The new law follows education standards developed by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA): Dental therapists working in Michigan will not have to obtain dental hygiene licenses, nor is there a degree requirement set in the statute. By following the CODA standards, the law allows Tribes in Michigan to replicate Alaska's successful dental therapy model without adding in any unnecessary barriers. For more information on Michigan's dental therapy law, click here.
If you would like to learn more about how dental therapy can improve health outcomes in Tribal communities and the work needed to bring the model to Tribes nationwide, visit NIHB's Tribal Oral Health Initiative. Check out NIHB's state legislative tracker, which analyzes dental therapy legislation in the states.
If you have any questions, please contact NIHB's Congressional Relations Coordinator, Brett Weber, at bweber@nihb.org