When COVID-19 first swept across the nation, dental offices were closed except for emergency services. As the only dedicated oral health funder in Colorado, Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation (DDCOF) critically evaluated their role and how to best serve Colorado amid the present reality. Traditionally, DDCOF has partnered with communities to reimagine how they can access, benefit from, and value the importance of oral health care. This year, we shifted our funding strategy to prioritize accessible care and vital services for those disproportionally impacted by the pandemic, resulting in the 2020 Responsive Community Relief Fund.
Delta Dental of Colorado COVID Relief at $30 million
At Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation, we believe services that address basic needs are vital to healthy communities. That’s why we are so proud to invest $2 million to support these 34 nonprofit organizations that are providing vital services to community members disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. This funding opportunity is part of Delta Dental of Colorado and Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation’s collective $30 million commitment to support community, customer and provider relief efforts around COVID-19.
There was significant overlap between the Colorado communities that experience oral health disparities and the communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Specifically, rural and minority communities were disproportionately affected. Rural areas consist of small businesses and many rural Colorado communities depend on tourism, making the impact of stay at home orders financially burdensome. In Summit county, 70% of jobs are tied to tourism, making the unemployment rate much higher than in urban areas. For the Family Intercultural Resource Center in Summit County, this meant that they provided 17,000 services in the first three months of the pandemic, which is more than they provide in a typical year. Additionally, in a socially distanced world where so much depends upon living virtually, poor broadband access is furthering inequities throughout rural communities.
At the crossroads between a global pandemic and racism
Minorities make up over 40% of COVID cases in Colorado, which is a disproportionate amount of the population. COVID-19 has also caused Black and Hispanic Coloradans to be hospitalized at significantly higher rates than white Coloradans. Some of the challenges outlined by Servicios de la Raza include the fact that many people in the Latinx community are essential workers, many don’t have health insurance, which is part due to the public charge rule implemented earlier this year, and that social distancing is difficult in a culture where multi-generational households are common. They also talk about dealing with racism. The social determinants of health have persistently pointed to the existence of structural racism, but COVID-19 has widened these racial inequities. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has declared racism a public health issue, and Governor Polis has signed an executive order directing the Department of Personnel and Administration to lead state action on equity, diversity, and inclusion for the state of Colorado.
Community organizations across Colorado have been under tremendous pressure as demand for services has skyrocketed. It’s crucial to reinforce systems and resources to achieve community health, especially now as so many organizations have risen to adapt and deliver new solutions for community members. We are grateful for the opportunity to forge new relationships and bring much needed resources to our community. Our partners are connecting families to resources now, which will help position them to receive dental care in the future.