University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDDs) aim to positively affect the lives of people with disabilities by building and strengthening systems that support full community participation. These activities are carried out in alignment with the DD Act (hyperlink) through the UCEDD core functions which include: (1) interdisciplinary training including continuing education; (2) community service including training, technical assistance, model, and demonstration services; (3) research including evaluation, and analysis of public policy; and (4) information dissemination. The ExceLens series highlights the valuable work of the UCEDDs within university systems, the community, and in the lives of people with disabilities across the lifespan and their family members.

The Ohio State University (OSU) Nisonger Center

A University of Ohio Nisonger CenterThe Ohio State University Nisonger Center has been in existence since 1966, among the first group of federally-funded University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD).  The Nisonger Center enjoys an enviable reputation for its interdisciplinary research, education/training, clinical services and dissemination activities. With a strong and dynamic interdisciplinary team of researchers, clinicians, teachers, staff and trainees, the faculty and staff of the Nisonger Center strive to improve the lives of people with intellectual and neurodevelopmental disabilities across their lifespan.

All Smiles in Ohio: OSU Nisonger Center Dental Clinic

The dental program at The Ohio State University (OSU) Nisonger Center has a long history.  Opening in 1971, the program was initially designed to care for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. As the patient population aged, the practice on campus (McCampbell Hall) transitioned from children to adult patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) to insure access to care. In 2003, a separate stand-alone dental clinic was opened in the community to continue serving the oral healthcare needs of children and adolescents with IDD. The McCampbell Hall facility is the only clinic in Ohio whose entire focus is adults with IDD. There has been overwhelming support received for the program from stakeholders and foundations. As a direct result of this project, the Nisonger Center was able to obtain funds for the complete renovation of the McCampbell Hall clinic to update all the dental equipment and make the clinic setting more student and patient-friendly. In the future, the Nisonger Center hopes to expand staff by supporting and empowering individuals with disabilities in administrate roles. Staff are also beginning to dive into research efforts on oral health for patients with IDD with one project in development and others in the pipeline. While the program has been an overwhelming success, navigating bureaucracy, dedicating time and resources, and the development of the application document and enrollment requirements for students have been hurdles the team has had to overcome throughout the process. Through this hard work, future programs will have a path to follow once the first cohort has been enrolled. Their hope is to connect with other UCEDDs faculty to expand and replicate the continuing education program in their Centers, improving access to oral health services across the country.

Research has shown that oral health has direct impacts on cardiac, respiratory, and over health and wellbeing (the IDD patient population is often more susceptible to cardiac and respiratory issues). It is important to the center to train more oral health providers in caring for patients with IDD to improve their overall health outcomes by removing barriers such as access to providers and long-distance travel to receive care. What sets the Nisonger Center Program apart is direct patient care involvement that students must perform to demonstrate competency in the care of patients with IDD. They strive for people with IDD to be able to access quality oral health services closer to home and to give the oral health provider the skills to feel confident to treat this population safely. By accomplishing this, it will be a win-win for the patient, provider, state, and center.

More Information:

·       For more information on the OSU Nisonger Center or their dental program, please contact Stephen Beetstra DDS MHSA.

·       Please look at the University of Pennsylvania Special Needs Program and AADMD.org websites to see additional information and policies statements concerning care for individuals with IDD and special needs.

·       Please send any questions, comments, related resources, or stories you would like to share to the URC team at AUCD.