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Governor Announces Preliminary Plans for Kansas Dental School/KDA Releases Statement

During his State of the State address on the evening of Tuesday, January 10, 2017, Governor Brownback announced his plans to pursue a dental school at the KUMC Campus in Kansas City, Kansas. On Wednesday morning, the Governor’s plans became more clear with the release of his FY 2018 Budget proposal. 

Specifically, the Governor is recommending $800,000 in both FY 2018 and FY 2019 for preliminary planning costs to construct a new School of Dentistry within the University of Kansas Medical Center campus. The recommended funding will come from the Educational Building Fund for each fiscal year.  According to the Governor’s Budget document, initial estimates to remodel the Dykes Library provided by the University indicate total project costs of $43.0 million including building costs, information technology and initial startup costs for faculty, administration and accreditation. The project would require ongoing annual state support of $6.5 million to maintain the four-year program with an estimated 60 students paying $43,000 per year for in-state tuition.

In response to the Governor’s dental school proposal, the KDA has released the following statement:  

While the Kansas Dental Association has no formal position on the creation of a new school of dentistry, the KDA appreciates the Governor’s interest in working to advance good oral health care for our fellow Kansans.

Kansas dentists have worked methodically on practical solutions to address access and workforce issues and are heartened by the fact that these efforts are paying off. For example, the KDA’s Kansas Initiative for New Dentists scholarship/grant program, privately funded by Delta Dental of Kansas, has already placed six dentists in rural areas and more are on the way. 

The idea of establishing a dental school in Kansas has been contemplated, reviewed and studied by many entities in the past. Over the years, Kansas dentists have fostered a strong relationship with the students and administration at UMKC School of Dentistry and other regional dental schools. Despite not having a dental school in Kansas, these relationships have resulted in an ever-increasing population of dentists practicing in Kansas. In fact, the number of dentists licensed and practicing in Kansas is at an all-time high and growing at a rate that outpaces Kansas’ population growth. 

The KDA would be remiss in not highlighting its unwavering concerns regarding KanCare/Medicaid in Kansas. Dental reimbursement levels for dental Medicaid which have not been adjusted for the past 16 years in our state. To make matters worse, dental and other KanCare/Medicaid provider reimbursement rates were recently reduced by 4%. This has only served to decrease access to dental care across the state for the state’s most vulnerable populations. 
Any additional funding identified for oral health needs should be targeted to this population of Kansas citizens.