The CARES Program (Counseling, Advocacy, Referral, Education and Service), a nationally recognized collaboration between the University at Buffalo Schools of Dental Medicine and Social Work, was created in 2001 as an innovative solution to reduce barriers to accessing oral health care faced by a diverse population in Western New York.
Oral health is integral to patients’ overall physical, mental, and emotional health, and well-being. While the UB School of Dental Medicine offers dental services, it also recognizes and teaches the importance of wholistic health in fulfilling our patients’ needs. The CARES Program is a partner in carrying out this mission.
The CARES Program continues to expand in new directions while maintaining these primary objectives:
1. To overcome barriers to accessing quality oral health care
2. To facilitate the interprofessional education of DDS and MSW students in the treatment of UB Dental patients
3. To provide patient counseling and education regarding health, and other behaviors to promote wellness
4. To link patients to community resources and provide advocacy so they can best utilize them
5. To collaborate with other UB Dental resources in meeting the CARES Program goals and objectives
6. To foster community partnerships in order to address a diverse array of patient needs
The CARES Program achieves these objectives by helping School of Dental Medicine patients with:
1. Financing dental treatments
2. Transportation to and from dental appointments
3. Interpreter services
4. Access to health care
5. Mental health support
8. Family concerns (Safety, death, divorce, caregiving, etc.)
9. Alcohol, tobacco or other drug cessation
Led by an experienced licensed Social Worker, the CARES Team consists of social workers and social work students working alongside dental faculty, residents, students and staff. CARES Team members work with patients to identify their concerns, and then provide education and linkage to community resources to address them.
In addition to assisting patients, an emphasis is placed on expanding the dental curriculum to formally address biopsychosocial concerns that influence the overall well-being of patients. Classroom-based, interactional, and clinical educational interventions offered through community outreach events have been developed to enhance dental students' awareness about health and social needs.
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