Monthly Archives: August 2013

HJ News and Resource Roundup 8/30/13

Welcome back to our second installment of the HJ News and Resource Roundup! Every week we will be posting the latest news and resources to keep you up-to-date on what’s happening in the struggle for health justice. This week, we’ll be discussing health reform, immigrant access to health care, the NYC hospital closures, and more.

Immigrant Access to Health Care

Wladyslaw Haniszewski, an undocumented immigrant who had lived in the United States for 30 years, was recently deported back to Poland–not by the US government, but by a hospital in New Jersey. Not wanting to cover the cost of Haniszewski’s care after he suffered a stroke, the hospital flew Haniszewski back to Poland without contacting the Polish consulate, arranging for his medical care once in Poland, or even waiting for him to regain consciousness.

Eleven million undocumented immigrants in the United States are excluded from participation in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but improving access to care for this population could benefit all Americans.

Over 400 advocacy groups and organizations support immigrant inclusion in health care.

Hospital Closures

North Central Bronx Hospital has closed its labor and delivery, nursery, and neonatal care units. Responsible for 1,500 births in the last year, NCBH was a critical health resource and many worry its closure will adversely impact the health of mothers and infants in the North Bronx, particularly within communities of color. Sign a petition to save NCBH’s labor and delivery services here!

A judge has agreed to allow Interfaith Hospital in Brooklyn to remain open for 16 more days. Advocates hope the delay will allow them to stave off permanent closure of the bankrupt hospital, which serves some of central Brooklyn’s poorest residents. Many of its financial woes began with the slashing of the state Medicaid budget in 2009.

Meanwhile, immunization clinics that provide free and low-cost services in the Bronx and Queens also face closure. You can sign a petition to keep them open here.

Health Disparities

The Texas Health Institute has released a report highlighting key provisions of the ACA that advance racial and ethnic health equity and protect the health care safety net. The report also identifies priority areas in ACA implementation going forward.

Millions of Americans live in food deserts, a low-income area where there is limited access to grocery stores, making it expensive, difficult, and time-consuming to obtain fresh and nutritious food. Food deserts and food swamps–areas with a high number of junk food-peddling convenience stores and fast food chains in place of traditional grocery stores–are particularly prevalent in predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods.

Meet the women of color who are revolutionizing the approach to addressing health disparities, gentrification, and environmental degradation in their communities: through biking.

Racial disparities in health care are considered the new frontier for civil rights. As popular discourse on racial health disparities typically focuses on Black and Latino populations, other marginalized communities–such as Native Americans–are often overlooked. Yet a large minority of Native Americans live on reservations in rural areas with limited access to quality health care, leading to disproportionately high negative health outcomes.

Miscellaneous:

Conservatives both on the state and national levels are still working to block the implementation of the ACA.

This week was the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington. Check out his speech, accompanied by beautiful animation, here. Our own HJ team member Jenn Swayne reflected on the anniversary of this pivotal moment in history–and where we have left to go as a nation–here.

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1963 March on Washington 50th Anniversary Reflection

by Jennifer Swayne, Staff Attorney- Health Justice Program

MLK Monument Pic 2Today marks the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.  This March took place during a time of great upheaval and racial tension and represented a growing swell of actions highlighting the injustices that permeated American society.  Marchers traveled from near and far to call for equality in civil, political, economic, and human rights.  On this anniversary, individuals are once again convening on the Washington Mall.  This time, the purpose is to not only commemorate the historical March of 1963, but to also take stock of where we have yet to go as a nation.

Today, we no longer face water hoses, attacks by police dogs, “whites only” signs, and literacy and jelly bean tests for voting.  Instead, we face systemic inequality.  Instead of “whites only” signs, we continue to face the pervasive notion that people of color do not belong in certain spaces, as evidenced by the murder of Trayvon Martin, or that they pose a threat, as demonstrated by the illegal use of “stop and frisk.”  Instead of jelly bean tests that disenfranchise black voters, Justice Antonin Scalia labeled the Voting Rights Act a “racial entitlement” before the Supreme Court obliterated the Act.

The healthcare setting is another sphere where systemic inequality remains.  Low-income communities of color face unequal access to healthcare and bear a disproportionate burden of poor health outcomes. One example is the continued loss of healthcare services in medically underserved neighborhoods.  In New York City, we are in the midst of a crisis where institutions such as Interfaith Medical Center in Brooklyn, Holliswood Hospital in Queens, and two Immunization Clinics in the Bronx and Queens will be closed.  The barriers to healthcare that medically underserved communities face fit hand in hand with the other forms of inequality mentioned above—they reflect a perverse disregard for people of color and low-income communities and demonstrate that we still have much further to go to realize the dream of full equality.

While we have moved forward from some of our darkest moments in 1963, many challenges lie ahead. Yet today’s gathering in Washington reminds us that we can work together to make positive changes for all communities.  In addition to Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Dream,” we should also heed his words that “[t]his is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”

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HJ News and Resource Roundup 8/23/13

Introducing the HJ News Roundup! Every week we will be posting the latest news and resources to keep you up-to-date on what’s happening in the struggle for health justice. Let us know what you think!

Hospital Closures

Readers in NYC are probably aware of the deteriorating health care crisis in Brooklyn as Long Island College Hospital (LICH) and Interfaith Medical Center face closure. A recent court order will allow LICH to continue operating temporarily.

And while Brooklyn hospitals are struggling to stay open, the crisis has now spread to the Bronx where the city has decided to close down Labor and Delivery at North Central Bronx Hospital. This may be a first step towards closing down the entire facility.

Immigrant Access to Health Care

Congress is preparing to head back to Washington, D.C. and will resume attempts to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Here’s some timely analysis of immigrant access to health care under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and current immigration reform proposals.

Chicago activists declared a major victory earlier this month after fourteen undocumented immigrants in Chicago Hospitals were able to gain access to organ-transplant lists.

An article from Fronteras illustrates the specific challenges that mixed status families face in accessing vital health services.

A new report contains state estimates of the number of low-income immigrants that would not qualify for Medicaid coverage under the ACA’s expansion. Another report looks at health coverage among undocumented immigrants.

Language Access

This month, the HJ team celebrated a major civil rights victory after Nassau County signed an executive order ensuring language access for its limited-English proficient (LEP) residents in their interactions with county agencies.

Finally, in California, legislators are considering a bill that would expand the number of medical interpreters. The bill (AB 1263) was passed by the Assembly in May and the Senate is expected to vote on it this fall.

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Community and Advocacy Groups Commend Nassau County Executive Orders Guaranteeing Translation and Interpretation Services to Nassau Residents

See below—and congrats to Shena, Jenn, and Kate for their hard work!

Mineola, NY – In an important step towards ensuring good government in Nassau County, County Executive Ed Mangano signed a second of two Executive Orders today guaranteeing translation and interpretation services to all limited-English proficient (LEP) residents in their interactions with County Government. Recent emergency and relief efforts have brought into stark relief the importance of the county agencies being able to communicate effectively and efficiently with all Nassau County residents, including the more than 130,000 county residents with limited ability to read, write, or speak English.

The two Nassau County Executive Orders (numbers 67 and 72) align Nassau County with Suffolk County and New York State’s similar executive orders in 2011 and 2012 that guaranteed such language assistance services, and make Nassau one of the first suburban counties in the United States to enact a comprehensive language access policy.  These Orders will bring significant public safety gains to the county and improve all agencies’ ability to interact with Nassau’s diverse population.  Under the provisions of the Order, all county agencies will, among other things, be required to:

  • Translate essential public documents and forms into the top six languages spoken by LEP residents of Nassau County—namely, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Persian, Korean, and French Creole
  • Provide interpretation services to all LEP Nassau residents;
  • Designate a language access coordinator and draft plans for complying with this Executive Order in the next 120 days; and
  • Refrain from using language access services use as a basis for inquiring about, or sharing, immigration status.

Representatives of various organizations that have worked with the County to ensure improved language access services and achieve these Executive Orders cheered the signing and expressed their commitment to working with the County to ensure effective implementation:

Maria Cordoba, a member of Make the Road New York and Westbury resident, said, “I recently went to the County Department of Social Services, and finding out that no one in the staff spoke Spanish, I had to leave without being served. Make the Road New York is excited about these two orders and the commitment they demonstrate to limited-English proficient residents.”

Cheryl Keshner, coordinator of Long Island Language Advocates Coalition and senior paralegal at the Empire Justice Center, stated: “We applaud the signing of these executive orders. As evidenced by Hurricane Sandy, it is essential that all members of our community have equal and timely access to government services, especially during times of crisis.”

Daniel Altschuler, Coordinator of the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, affirmed “These two Executive Orders together are critical for ensuring good government in Nassau County. We are thrilled that Nassau will now become one of the first suburban counties in the United States to guarantee language access in county agencies, and we look forward to continuing to work with the County administration to ensure effective implementation.”

Shena Elrington, Director of Health Justice at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, said: “The signing of these two executive orders marks a civil rights victory for limited English proficient residents of Nassau County, who will now be able to meaningfully access government services. These EOs reflect a commitment to ensuring access for every resident, regardless of the language he or she speaks.”

“Today Nassau County joins a growing movement in New York and across the country to break down language barriers between immigrant communities and their local governments,” said Nisha Agarwal, Deputy Director at the Center for Popular Democracy. “These executive orders will make it possible for residents with limited English proficiency to access the services they need to take care of themselves and their families, and will help create a healthier, safer, more economically robust Nassau county for all.”

“Today, Nassau County takes an important step forward in ensuring equal access to critical services such as police and emergency assistance, medical care, and important information such as public health and safety notices,” said Jason Starr, Director of the Nassau County Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union.  “These orders celebrate both the linguistic and cultural diversity that make our community special and the spirit of tolerance and diversity embodied in the Constitution.”

Martha Maffei, Executive Director at Services for the Advancement of Women (SEPA Mujer) stated “In my daily work with immigrant women escaping domestic abuse, language access is crucial for women who are seeking services for themselves, as well as for their families. I congratulate Nassau County for providing the tool that victims of domestic violence need to look forward in their lives.”

“As Nassau County becomes more and more diverse, these Executive Orders will help ensure that all of our residents have access to important services, and can participate in community life,” said Anita Halasz, Organizer with Long Island Jobs with Justice.

Delbys Torres, member organizer for La Fuente and resident of Freeport said, “We applaud Nassau County for committing to provide access to language services to thousands of residents in all county interactions, not just in a select few. We encourage them to continue to find ways of ensuring that Nassau County is a place who provides equal opportunity and access to services regardless of language barriers. It is a great day when government goes beyond what is legal under the law, but what is just and critical to ensure that our government is truly democratic and open to all.”

“These orders will assure that all parents are better informed about available services and, in turn, how to help their children succeed,” said Johanna Rotta, Coordinator of Community Assets at the Early Years Institute.

“The Nassau County Language Access Executive Orders will help Limited-English Proficient consumers with disabilities to have a better quality of life, to live more independently and to participate more in their community,” said Grisselle Rivera-Mucciolo, Director of Hispanic Outreach at the Long Island Center for Independent Living.

Read more here. The official press release can be found here.

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