RELEASE: Associations Amplify Policy Priorities for Rural Communities

Three groups representing oral health, behavioral health, and rural health concerns engaged elected officials and encouraged policy action to advance health equity in North Carolina

RALEIGH – A standing-room-only crowd joined three Foundation for Health Leadership and Innovation (FHLI) programs on May 7, 2024, for the organization’s annual legislative breakfast at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

The North Carolina Rural Health Association (NCRHA), the North Carolina Oral Health Collaborative (NCOHC), and the Center of Excellence for Integrated Care (COE) co-hosted event to raising awareness and engaging participants in policy action to support rural communities.

Featured speakers at the breakfast included:

• Representative Tim Reeder, MD

• Chris Shank, North Carolina Community Health Center Association (NCCHCA)

• Zil Joyce Dixon Romero, National Rural Health Association

• Dr. Frank Courts, NC Dental Society Council on Prevention and Oral Health

• Senator Gale Adcock, MSN

During the event, Representative Reeder, an emergency physician from Pitt County, spoke about whole-person health care, emphasizing the connection between the head, the mouth,and the rest of the body. Shank spoke about her work at NCCHCA and the important role NCRHA serves in advocating for rural communities across North Carolina.

Courts and Senator Adcock spoke about their participation in a recent North Carolina Institute of Medicine task force on oral health. The task force, which released a full report on April 24, 2024, includes a robust slate of recommendations, including several with policy implications.

The three FHLI programs used the event to champion key legislative priorities, including:

• Investing new funding in North Carolina Medicaid for dental services

• Growing the dental provider network

• Building on successful policy expanding rural broadband

• Building a more robust rural health care workforce

• Extending and increasing community health center funding

• Providing for annual mental health well visits



Brady Blackburn, Director of Communications
Foundation for Health Leadership & Innovation