BlackHistoryMonth015-02012019224056 (copy)

Gov. Tony Evers speaks in the Capitol rotunda on the first day of Black History Month.

Gov. Tony Evers' first budget proposal will include $43 million to expand access to dental care in Wisconsin, his office announced Monday. 

Evers is expected to deliver his budget address to the Legislature on Feb. 28, but he has previewed several initiatives in the weeks beforehand. 

"Increasing dental access across our state requires a comprehensive approach,," Evers said in a statement. "These are critically important initiatives and I’m proud to invest in these programs that will improve the health and wellness of folks all over Wisconsin."

Evers' proposal would expand the state's Seal-A-Smile program, which provides sealants and other preventative dental services to children, and would increase the number of low-income dental clinics eligible for grant funding to care for patients covered by Medicaid or without insurance. 

The proposal would also create a dental therapist licensure and would allocate funds to Wisconsin colleges that implement dental therapist training programs. Evers will also propose an expansion to the state's loan repayment program for providers practicing in rural areas. 

The details of the dental proposal were first reported by the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. A release from the governor's office did not note how much of an increase to current funding levels Evers' proposal would offer, and a spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an email seeking clarification. 

According to the Leader-Telegram report, the state would cover $21.8 million of the proposal, with the rest covered by federal funds. 

Citing data published by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Evers' office said an estimated 204 additional dental providers are needed to alleviate shortages throughout the state.

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Jessie Opoien covers state government and politics for the Capital Times. She joined the Cap Times in 2013 and has also covered Madison life, race relations, culture and music. She has also covered education and politics for the Oshkosh Northwestern.

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