Utah dental clinics serving the underinsured will close after pandemic budget cut

In Utah, three health and three dental clinics serving lower-income and marginalized patients will be shut down due to a budget cut, The Salt Lake Tribune reports.

In June, lawmakers tightened a state budget strained by the pandemic, ultimately cutting funding for the six state-run clinics. In total, the clinics served 13,000 patients each year. Some of the centers are among the few places refugees can receive legally required health screenings and vaccinations.

Utah legislators who supported the decision said they believed patients would be able to find the same services elsewhere and wanted to avoid cutting funds from other safety-net programs. On the other hand, clinic advocates believe the pandemic will only deepen unmet healthcare needs as more people require Medicaid coverage.

The state opened the clinics more than 30 years ago, said Jake Fitisemanu Jr., director of the facilities. The clinics also started running a mobile dental clinic that travels to rural communities.

The Ogden dental clinic is expected to shut its doors at the end of August, while Salt Lake City's dental clinics are set to close Oct. 31, according to the state health department. In all, 41 employees will lose their jobs, Mr. Fitisemanu told The Salt Lake Tribune.

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