The Debate Over the Legalization of Dental Therapists Continues

An increasing number of states are legalizing dental therapists. Currently they have varying degrees of legal status in Minnesota, Vermont and Alaska, a growing number of other states are in the legal process of considering it, while more are still in the discussion phase.  

So, what exactly are dental therapists? 

Dental therapists have mid-level qualifications that place them above dental hygienists and below full-fledged dentists. They also take the same licensing test as dentists, they just take a shorter version.

Dental therapists are trained to do everyday low-risk operations such as fillings, temporary crowns and extractions. 

Currently, only 40% of dentists in the U.S. currently accept Medicaid coverage.

Proponents argue that legalizing dental therapists increases the number of dental professionals qualified to do these common procedures, thereby expanding accessibility for people with lower incomes or on federal assistance programs. 

On the other hand, opponents of the program are weary of potential lower levels in quality of care. 

While Minnesota has completely legalized dental therapists, a number of states that have legalized or are considering legalizing them conditionally. For instance, in Vermont, dental therapists can only legally work under the supervision of dentists. Massachusetts legislation is proposing that dental therapists would only be allowed to work on Medicaid recipients or in counties with a lack of sufficient dentists. 

Dental therapy legislation was first introduced in Washington in 2011 and has been brought forth every year since.

2017 EHF Responsive & Rural Aging Responsive Grants will open on April 3rd

In support of our vision to transform Eastern Washington into the state's healthiest region, we hold an annual open request for proposals called the Responsive and Rural Agings Grants.

The Responsive Grant cycle is designed to address one-time, emergent needs. Non-profits, churches or government agencies may apply for funds up to $15,000. On the other hand, the Rural Aging Responsive Grant cycle also provides up to $15,000 of funding, but with a focus on one-time projects designed to help adults 60 years or older in rural communities live full, meaningful lives with independence and dignity.

The grant programs serve EHF’s seven-county region of Adams, Ferry, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Spokane and Whitman Counties, including the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, Spokane Tribe of Indians and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

Empire Health Foundation (EHF) will open the 2017 Responsive and Rural Aging Grant cycles on April 3rd and close on April 28th.

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Click here to visit our funding page and access a list of projects awarded in 2016. For more information, please contact Christina at, or Jeri at    


EHF, At the Core, 2nd Harvest and Glover MS Collaborate to Bring Weekend food to students

Empire Health Foundation is working in conjunction with Second Harvest, At the Core, and Glover Middle School to pilot Bite2Go XL at Glover Middle School. Bite2Go is a school based food program that provides students who are hungry with food to take home over the weekend. According to At the Core and Second Harvest, an estimated 2,000 middle and high school students across Spokane County school districts don't know if they will have enough to eat when they leave school for the weekend. Bite2Go XL is an innovative answer to middle and high school student hunger. 

To make Bite2Go possible, organizations, businesses and churches in the community "adopt" a local school. By adopting a school, the organization is financially sponsoring the cost to feed participating kids for the school year, and volunteering staff time to get food into kids' hands. So far, elementary schools in 8 districts across Spokane County have been adopted, as well as Lewis and Clark, Mead, and Mt. Spokane High Schools.

By adopting Glover Middle School, the EHF family is supporting the first middle school Bite2Go program in our region. We are excited by the opportunity to work collaboratively with our partners to create a model that can be replicated for other area middle schools. 

On February 15, Empire Health Foundation employees were invited to volunteer at Second Harvest's VIP Build Event to help package food for Bite2Go programs in Spokane elementary schools.

 EHF program employees Sam Song, Wendy Xue, Shannon Selland, Christina Kamkosi, Rita Mykelburg and Justin Botejue volunteer for Bite2Go!

EHF program employees Sam Song, Wendy Xue, Shannon Selland, Christina Kamkosi, Rita Mykelburg and Justin Botejue volunteer for Bite2Go!

The mission of middle and high school Bite2Go is to empower and equip students to help feed peers at their school who are hungry by providing fulfilling meals over the weekend. This is accomplished with the guiding values of dignity, respect, and discretion.

Community joins MLK Jr. Outreach Center to Paint over racist graffiti

We were saddened to hear that last night the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center, which has been supporting children and families in Spokane for 40 years, was victim of a hate crime when a racial slur was found spray painted on the side of their building this morning, right next to the playground. 

Today, we joined together in solidarity and song with city leaders, religious leaders, community members, and the media, in what the MLK Center called a "Rally to Erase the Hate." Every person in attendance was invited to take a paintbrush and collectively paint over this hateful language. 

Community members gather at the MLK Jr. Family Outreach Center, and join in song and solidarity.

While a powerful and hopeful gathering, a spokesperson at the rally reminded the crowd that we were not just there to erase this message, but to bare witness to injustice and racism which has been a lived reality for many of our community members for far too long. We cannot let it be ignored. Whether as individuals or as an organization, we must have the courage to express that hate and prejudice are unacceptable. Especially when the mission of our organizations are healing and the health of our communities. 

  Children paint over the racial slur graffitied on the wall next to the playground

Children paint over the racial slur graffitied on the wall next to the playground

Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble cause of equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.
— Martin Luther King Jr.

Spokane Teaching Health Clinic celebrates grand opening Oct. 17

Members of the Spokane Teaching Health Center (STHC) consortium together with community, state and federal leaders, will celebrate the grand opening of the Spokane Teaching Health Clinic at 624 Front Avenue during a ceremony Monday, Oct. 17, at 4:30 p.m.

The 42,000 square foot Spokane Teaching Health Clinic serves as a training site for new physicians and provides interdisciplinary opportunities for the region’s university students. It provides patients access to medical care and a variety of resources in a supportive, compassionate setting. Located on the campus of Washington State University Health Sciences Spokane, the clinic is operated by Providence Health Care and made possible by the participation of Empire Health Foundation.

Construction of the new clinic was financed by Washington State University and is the result of a unique consortium in 2013 between the WSU Health Sciences Spokane campus, Empire Health Foundation and Providence Health Care. The three entities applied for and were awarded a $900,000 federal Teaching Health Center grant to create new medical residency slots for Eastern Washington. They formed the Spokane Teaching Health Center.

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who will speak at the celebration, joined Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell of Washington State in a bipartisan effort last year to extend the funding for medical residents beyond its initial round of grants. As a result of the federal funding, the number of residents has increased by 18 residents in Spokane.

"Bringing more general family practice doctors, OBGYNs, and psychiatrists to Eastern Washington is one of my top priorities,” said Rep. McMorris Rodgers (WA-05). “This is a great chapter for our community and for the future of medical practice in Spokane and Eastern Washington."

The clinic opened August 1 and is expected to have more than the 35,000 patient visits seen at the Providence 5th and Browne clinic which closed this summer.