SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP)– The Caring Health Center (CHC) in Springfield has been awarded a grant to participate in an oral health initiative.

While substance abuse can impact mental and physical health, some drugs prescribed to lessen mouth pain can also lead to addiction and damage the mouth and teeth. To help address these issues, CHC will participate in an oral health substance use disorder pilot program thanks to an $18,000 grant awarded by Delta Dental to benefit healthcare centers throughout the region. The program is run by the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers (The League).

The League’s Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Pilot Project offers organizations like CHC educational webinars and trainings which focus on addiction screening, intervention, and referrals to treatment. These trainings help providers to become more aware of opioid addiction risks when prescribing medications for dental pain.

Of the total Delta Dental award, CHC received $5,000 and plans to use the funds to address dental issues resulting from substance use disorders, such as oral cancer, dry mouth and caries. They will also participate in the Mass League trainings.

Chief Dental Director Lucila Bruno DDS is pleased to have CHC be a part of the program. “The CHC dental department is committed to supporting the community in all aspects that affect overall health. We are thankful for this learning opportunity and are currently engaged with The League in an effort to improve screening for substance use disorders by training our providers to be open, knowledgeable and assertive in the approach to our patients and to offer referrals to evaluation and treatment as needed.”

During the pandemic, the CDC reported spikes in drug overdose deaths, with more than 30 states reporting increases in opioid-involved overdose deaths. These sobering statistics have become a call to action throughout Massachusetts.

“Health center training on safe opioid prescribing methods and managing acute dental pain is having a measurable impact in the vulnerable communities we serve,” said Michael Curry, president and CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers. “We’re already having more success identifying patients with SUDs and linking them to the critical treatment and recovery supports they need.”