What the President’s Executive Action means for the people we serve

On Thursday, November 20th, President Obama made public his historic Immigration Accountability Executive Action (IAEA). Immigrant rights groups across the city—and the nation—gathered to watch his prime-time address. Social media was buzzing with quotes from the speech and messages of solidarity. Celebratory rallies were held from Washington State to Washington Square Park. It was one of those collective TV moments, sitting before the screen and knowing that many people were doing the exact same thing.

New Yorkers for Real Immigration Reform (NYRIR) viewing party in Manhattan at 32BJ SEIU. Link to NYIC page at bottom of article

New Yorkers for Real Immigration Reform (NYRIR) viewing party in Manhattan at 32BJ SEIU. ©NYIC (link to image at NYIC page at bottom of article)

 

While the IAEA offers much-needed, much-deserved deportation relief and authorization to work for undocumented immigrants, there are still many unanswered questions, namely the unforeseen impacts on public institutions and a still-marginalized immigrant community. Groups like New York Immigration Coalition and New York Legal Assistance Group are already doing what they can to prepare for possible repercussions, such as the budding opportunity for those who wish to take advantage of immigrants seeking legal advice. According to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., “The threat of fraud against New York’s immigrant population is a real and present problem, and underscores the importance of those seeking assistance in immigration matters to hire qualified professionals, such as a lawyer or other accredited individuals.”

While legal assistance groups are navigating the intricacies of status applications, labor laws, and increased potential for immigrant fraud, we at AMPHS are preparing for the possibility of changing health needs and complications of healthcare access. It’s too soon to tell exactly how the President’s reforms will play out in the healthcare arena, but here are a few items we are looking at:

• Undocumented immigrants who are now authorized to work in the U.S. are able to pay in to and receive Medicare, Social Security, and other federal benefits.
• However, those granted deportation relief would not be eligible for student financial aid, food stamps, housing subsidies, or participation to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchange.
• This also means that employers now have what amounts to an incentive of $3,000 per employee to hire undocumented immigrants because they are not subject to coverage penalties under the ACA.

So what does this mean for immigrant health?

Hypothetically, it means more of the same. For decades, undocumented immigrants have been working in this country without legal authorization to do so and without adequate healthcare access. Now they can legally work, but healthcare access continues to be limited or nonexistent. U.S. healthcare providers are still adjusting to the new ACA status quo, but presumably that adjustment won’t include an influx of newly recognized immigrants.

Audience members react as President Barack Obama delivers remarks on immigration at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas.

Audience members react as President Barack Obama delivers remarks on immigration at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas.

On the other hand, it is probable that an immigrant community that has largely kept its health concerns in the shadows out of fear of exposure and deportation will now, justifiably, make its needs heard. Whether or not a person has access to healthcare, everyone has healthcare needs that must, in one way or another, be met.

Furthermore, the kind of work historically made available to undocumented immigrants is typically labor-intensive with more hazardous workplace conditions. Before the IAEA, immigrants who suffered injuries on the job may have been disinclined to report them, losing their livelihoods along with their health in the process; but now, there will be less risk associated with reporting injuries and seeking care. This raises further questions about workers’ compensation benefits and independent contractor abuses (again, we’ll leave those to the lawyers). But one thing seems evident: job-related health issues stand to contribute significantly to the immigrant health conversation and may lead to a greater demand for health services.

This is certainly new and exciting territory for our immigrant communities, and for public health. Even with all of these legal and policy mysteries, we at AMPHS couldn’t be more excited to be a part of this dialogue. However the IAEA reforms play out, we’ll be there to track and advise on any changes to healthcare access. We’ll continue to offer free health screenings to our community members without regard to legal status or coverage. We’ll do our best to diversify the impacts on Brooklyn’s community health system by providing an additional point of care. And we’ll continue to celebrate the acknowledgement and political advancement of the wonderful people we serve.

A door was opened on Thursday, November 20th. Let’s do all we can to make the most of that opening, and to see where else it can lead.

Link to photo at NYIC page

AMPHS HONORED AS 2014 TOP-RATED NONPROFIT

AMPHS been honored with a prestigious 2014 Top-Rated Award by GreatNonprofits, the leading provider of user reviews about nonprofit organizations.

“We are excited to be named a Top-Rated 2014 Nonprofit,” says Hewett Chiu, President & Chief Executive Officer. We are proud of our accomplishments this year.” The Top-Rated Nonprofit award was based on the large number of positive reviews that AMPHS received – reviews badgewritten by volunteers, donors and clients.People posted their personal experience with the nonprofit. For example, one community member wrote, “I came to AMPHS because I was uninsured and had a problem with a torn meniscus. I came to see the AMPHS clinicians and they gave me a full physical exam and the physician and social worker spent nearly an hour with me explaining my condition and the different treatment options. They are a very professional group, even though they are a small organization, making a true difference in my life.”

While the Top-Rated Awards run through the end of October, AMPHS was part of the inaugural group to qualify for the year. In addition, AMPHS has been added to GreatNonprofits #GivingTuesday Guide—an interactive guide to top nonprofits throughout the years. Look for this near the holidays.

“Savvy donors want to see the impact of their donations more than ever,” said Perla Ni, CEO of GreatNonprofits, “People with direct experience with AMPHS have voted that the organization is making a real difference.”

Being on the Top-Rated list gives donors and volunteers more confidence that this is a credible organization. The reviews by volunteers, community members and other donors show the on-the-ground results. This award is a form of recognition by the community.

See more of our reviews here!

About GreatNonprofits

GreatNonprofits is the leading site for donors and volunteers to find reviews and ratings of nonprofits. Reviews on the site influence 30 million donation decisions a year. Visit www.greatnonprofits.org for more information.

Ambassadors of Good Health

We at AMPHS are doing all we can to spread the word about public health issues, as well as the services we offer in Sunset Park. On Monday, October 27th, we were invited to speak before a Zumba class at the Sunset Park Recreation Center.

In the gym, as people were showing up in their sweats and dance clothes, we spoke with the Center’s Program Director, Letitia Guillory. She explained that these weekly Zumba classes are free and open to the public as part of NYC Parks’ Shape Up NYC program. “I brought snacks tonight,” she said, pointing to a refreshments table, “for anyone who dressed up.” One guest was wearing a Batman mask. Another had her face painted like a cat. “I brought a pirate costume,” Letitia told us, her laugh echoing. “Don’t judge me!”

 

Sunset Park Recreation Center's Program Director, Letitia Guillory

Sunset Park Recreation Center’s Program Director, Letitia Guillory

 

Ultimately, there were between sixty and seventy people milling about, stretching and chatting—Spanish speakers, English speakers—sneakers squeaking. In her introduction, Letitia told the group, “You are our ambassadors of good health. Whether you have access to these services already or not, take this information. Share it with everyone you know.”

AMPHS volunteers Mon Yuck and Sarice speak to the group

AMPHS volunteers Mon Yuck and Sarice speak to the group

We had three volunteers at this event. Nick passed flyers around while Mon Yuck spoke about AMPHS and Sarice translated. After the presentation, many came up to speak with us and to share contact information, excited to spread the word. Then the Latin beats began to thump and everyone was up and moving, including Letitia, now donning her pirate ensemble and improvising moves with her plastic sword.

Zumba time!

Zumba time!

As we left the Center that evening, we walked through Sunset Park to find community members enjoying the fall weather, and the Manhattan skyline. Children playing. Soccer games. A group performing a Chinese version of Zumba to a remixed “Ode to Joy”—Zumba is very popular here on Monday nights. It was wonderful to see health and fitness bringing so many people together.

So go. Tell the masses about Shape Up NYC and AMPHS. Promote wellness. You are now a Good Health Ambassador.

Click here for more info about the Shape UP NYC offerings at the Center.

United for Justice and Opportunity: AMPHS Joins NYIC’s “Consular ID Event”

Shortly after 9am on Sunday, September 28, immigrant community members and their families began to trickle through the front doors of P.S. 24 in Sunset Park. They were greeted by smiling representatives of the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) who signed them in and gave them itineraries for the day’s events, which included presentations by various organizations on the opportunities, resources, and services available to immigrant communities.

2014-09-28 10.13.16-1Tables were set up along the front hallways where community members could minglewith volunteers and learn more about each organization. The New York Legal Assistance Group repurposed the cafeteria to offer counseling to unaccompanied minors and to those who might be eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). And of course—the central purpose of the event—representatives from the consulates of Mexico and El Salvador were set up in the auditorium to issue passports and consular IDs to community members.

Volunteer Nick manned the AMPHS table

Volunteer Nick manned the AMPHS table

By noon, the hallways were bustling.

“We do these events nearly every month during the school year,” explained NYIC’s Director of Special Projects, Betsy Plumb. She wore a T-shirt that read: United for Justice and Opportunity. “We are really taking advantage of a policy change in 2011, which allows New York City school safety divisions to be able to accept consular IDs or foreign passports for entry. Before, parents without identification were having difficulty entering the schools their children were going to. This allows them access, along with the ability to better engage with their children’s education.”

Betsy told us that usually around 600 people attend these events, and that over the last three years approximately 22,000 New Yorkers have been assisted.

“The intent with the IDs was to fill a practical need,” said Claudia Calhoon, NYIC Health Advocacy Senior Specialist. She motioned toward the community members lined up in the auditorium and waiting in the seats. “Then we thought, we have a captive audience, right? So why not provide other kinds of outreach and helpful information while they wait?”

Advocacy groups like the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund presented on DACA eligibility and benefits. The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office spoke about ways to prevent immigrant fraud and to seek redress for crimes already committed. The City University of New York discussed scholarship opportunities and ways to seek financial aid. Even Council Member Carlos Menchaca was there to show his support.

Not to mention our very own Hewett Chiu and Mon Yuck Yu, who presented on immigrant healthcare issues. They also offered blood pressure screenings at the event.

AMPHS's Hewett Chiu and Mon Yuck Yu

AMPHS’s Hewett Chiu and Mon Yuck Yu

“Getting AMPHS involved is great,” Claudia told us, “because you do stuff that we don’t do. So we can let people know about these other resources and provide a more holistic set of services.”

Not only was this an opportunity for community members to learn about these helpful resources, but it was also an occasion for the organizations themselves to meet, discuss future collaborations, and share their stories.

One young woman from Atlas: DIY, Developing Immigrant Youth, came to our table to introduce herself. She spoke of her own experience as an undocumented immigrant and how Atlas: DIY helped her to achieve DACA status. It can be difficult, she explained, for young people with DACA status to get work, because employers aren’t always able to see a history of education or relevant work experience, so one thing Atlas: DIY does is offer its members vocational courses. After getting a job as a receptionist, she was so grateful that she continued to work with Atlas: DIY, eventually becoming their Director of Operations and Outreach.

This was the first event AMPHS and NYIC participated in together, and we certainly hope it isn’t that last. It was a day of community, information-sharing and solidarity, and we at AMPHS were thrilled to be a part of it.

 

Why Privacy Matters at AMPHS

Trust is important to us at AMPHS. Not only do we want our community members to be comfortable walking into our offices for their health-related needs, but we want them to be comfortable leaving as well, knowing that their information is safe and secure with us. That’s why all of our procedures are HIPAA compliant, and why all of our volunteers, from clinicians to receptionists to translators, receive thorough training on matters of privacy and accountability.

HIPAA refers to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Enacted in 1996, this law is basically a national code of conduct for any health-related organization in its use, storage, and transmission of an individual’s protected health information (or PHI).

But AMPHS is not a hospital, you might be thinking. Why is HIPAA compliance necessary?

Even though we don’t treat patients, we do offer our community members a variety of health services, including screenings, counseling, and education. This requires us to have access to certain health information, depending on the needs of the community member. As many of our community members are undocumented immigrants, strict adherence to HIPAA regulations is an essential part of our mission.
Here are some of the ways AMPHS protects community members’ privacy:

  • We have a “need to know” policy. This means that we do not share any PHI, even among other AMPHS volunteers, unless it is absolutely necessary to meet the needs of a community member.
  • When discussing the work we do in a public setting, we never refer to specific community members. Community members are of course welcome to discuss their own experiences with AMPHS as they see fit, but that is completely up to them.
  • Community members have the right to access any records we may be keeping under their names. However, we need to ensure that those requesting information are indeed who they say they are. Even when speaking to community members over the phone, only if we are 100% sure of the speaker’s identity do we proceed with anything related to his or her PHI.
  • We keep very secure paper and electronic files on our community members, and should we ever need to dispose of PHI, those records are duly shredded or expunged.
  • We never fax or email PHI. There is simply no way of knowing who might be able to access that information, so we don’t do it, period. We will, however, schedule a follow-up appointment should someone want to access his or her own records.
  • And as previously mentioned, everyone who has anything to do with the services offered at AMPHS receives thorough HIPAA training from our very own president and CEO, Hewett Chiu.

Beyond these measures, we only ask of our community members what they feel comfortable sharing. We don’t need to know anyone’s immigration status. We don’t need to know whether or not anyone is insured. If community members would like help navigating their rights concerning access to insurance and healthcare, regardless of immigration status, we are certainly prepared to do so, but as with any other PHI, that information is tightly sealed.

Above all else, we are here for the community, to provide health services and information to those who may not be comfortable or able to get it elsewhere. That’s why we are dedicated to making AMPHS a safe place to talk—confidentially, of course—about health.

Congrats to our clinical trainees

AMPHS had a successful second training session for our Clinical Practice Training Program (CPTP) this summer. Ten students completed the intensive, six-week series, in which they learned important skills and obtained certifications in First Aid, EKG, Pharmacology, and CPR (some are holding their CPR manikins, below).

IMG_20140823_130959

One student told us that the knowledge he gained from this program helped him understand what was going around him during a volunteer stint at a hospital, and his experience with AMPHS allowed him to understand things on a whole new level and take back even more from volunteering than ever before.

Two more CPTP sessions will be held in the fall, starting September 13th, and we are currently busy undergoing the selection process.

 

AMPHS engages seniors in Sunset Park

Check out these photos from AMPHS’s talk at the United Senior Citizens center in Sunset Park. Last week, AMPHS visited to educate seniors on how to read food labels.

Photo Jul 23, 10 16 54 AM

The AC was cranking on a hot day!

 

Alice Bonner, RN, NP, and Mon Yuck Yu led the talk for AMPHS.

Alice Bonner, RN, NP, and Mon Yuck Yu led the talk for AMPHS.

 

We had a good crowd, and some of the seniors even took notes!

We had a good crowd, and some of the seniors even took notes!

Photo Jul 23, 11 22 45 AM

Here are our AMPHS volunteers with Carmen Rodriquez, one of the administrators at the center.


Working with Menchaca

As an organization devoted to serving the immigrant population, you can imagine how excited we were when Carlos Menchaca, a Mexican-American, won a seat on the New York City Council. And to make it even better, he represents our very own Sunset Park community! We always knew that we’d work together, and it looks like that’s going to be happening soon.

We met with two members of his staff this week, Lee Wellington and Rossanna Mercedes, and we were thrilled by their interest in our work. We had a great discussion, and several collaborations were suggested. We look forward to working closely with the Councilman and his office!

We want to give big thanks also to the councilman for helping us obtain NYC Discretionary Funding for 2015. This will allow us to continue to focus on our community health literacy efforts and improve our current clinical programs, including building much-needed additional screening rooms and offering basic blood testing.

menchaca

From left, Rossanna Mercedes, AMPHS’s Hewett Chiu, and Lee Wellington

AMPHS welcomes new board members

AMPHS is excited to welcome four new members to its Board of Directors. They come from diverse backgrounds in law, psychology, finance, human resources and nonprofit management, and AMPHS President & CEO Hewett Chiu believes that this will signify a new direction for the organization.

“With the success AMPHS has seen over the past year, we are continuing to focus on strategic growth and how we can better serve our community members. To help guide our development, we underwent a search process to build a stronger Board of Directors in early 2014. I am very excited to introduce four new talented and dedicated professionals who will be joining the AMPHS board this year. This is truly a hands-on board who is passionate about healthcare access and service to our immigrant Sunset Park community.”

Meet our new Board members

 Scott Nolen, Secretary

ScottNolenScott currently serves as the Director of the Drug Addiction Treatment program at the Open Society Institute-Baltimore. This program partners with providers and advocates to provide access to high-quality drug addiction treatment to all individuals who need it. OSI-Baltimore works specifically on increasing the availability of such treatment for uninsured and underinsured people, in Baltimore and across the state of Maryland. Dr. Nolen is dually trained with a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Duke University and a J.D. from Harvard University. He has worked in a variety of arenas including academic research centers, a Senate legislative office, and several advocacy positions in the public health and juvenile/criminal justice fields. Recently, he served as a health scientist in the National Institutes on Minority Health and Health Disparities Office of Strategic Planning, Legislation and Scientific Policy. In that capacity, he led a project focused on creating a resource portal to drive the national discussion on health disparities. Prior to that, he served as the Director of the Equal Justice Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, which allowed him to combine his expertise in health care and criminal justice and utilize his legal training and social science research background to advocate for the most disenfranchised residents of New Jersey. Additionally, Dr. Nolen previously served as a Congressional Fellow for a United States Senator working on issues related to health care reform.

Bill Janes, Treasurer

BillJamesPrior to joining AMPHS, Bill served as a board member, CFO, financial management consultant, and volunteer at seven nonprofits. For two of the nonprofits at which Bill worked, he developed their strategic plan for doubling in size within four years. His plans were implemented and are proving successful. Bill comes to AMPHS with long-term experience as group vice president in charge of corporate financial management at European American Bank (EAB) and then at Citibank, which acquired EAB. Bill has a MBA in finance, MS in accounting, and a BS in financial management. He took an early retirement from commercial banking to “give back” by helping nonprofits succeed. He is convinced that AMPHS has great growth potential and is determined to help them reach it.

 Margaret-Ann Cole, Vice-Chair

MargaretColeMargaret-Ann is the Senior Vice President, Consulting Practice Leader for the Americas Northeast Region of Right Management responsible for both Career Management and Talent Management. Margaret-Ann combines expertise for developing, building and delivering innovative and integrated client workforce solutions spanning the entire employee development lifecycle. Known for engaging both colleagues and clients, developing innovative solutions, managing change, and helping individuals and teams reach their goals, Margaret-Ann has over 25 years of experience in working with organizations in shaping strategic direction and establishing organizational structures and operating systems to ensure achievement of strategic goals; leading revenue growth and cost reduction initiatives for Operations, Finance, HR, and IT functions.

Margaret-Ann has also provided services to companies by identifying and leveraging the talent of their people through: Helping businesses to think about and develop their corporate culture and its effect on individual performance; Enabling teams and systems to develop more effective and efficient ways of working; Performing in-depth one-to-one assessments for selection and development purposes, benchmarking managers against world-class standards; Assisting individuals to develop their personal performance, through executive coaching, development programs and mentoring schemes. Prior to joining Right Management, Margaret-Ann held senior positions with large consulting firms including Towers Watson, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Lee Hecht Harrison. Margaret-Ann is also on the Board of Directors of the non-profit organization, Rebuilding Together NYC. She has spoken on management issues in forums such as the American Management Association, Linkage, Marcus Evans, IQPC, and The College of New Jersey and has written for Dalbar, Trust & Investments, HR Advisory, Pharma Executive, and Human Resource Executive magazine.

Margaret-Ann graduated with a degree in economics and psychology from Fordham University. She holds a unique global executive MBA from TRIUM, an alliance of the New York University Stern School, the London School of Economics and the HEC Management School of Paris. She resides in NJ.

 Paige Lescure, Board Member

Paige Lescure 002-2A healthcare lawyer, public health advocate and teacher, Paige is passionate about advancing health and wellness education and access to quality healthcare for all individuals. Paige began her career in international banking law at White & Case in New York City but decided within a few years that her real interest was in healthcare law, a nascent legal specialty at that time. After earning an LLM in health care law at New York University School of Law, Paige began a 25-year career in private practice in health care law, representing hospitals, physicians and other healthcare providers and entities. In 2011 Paige was invited to join the University of Maryland School of Law as Senior Health Law & Policy Fellow to assist with advocacy relating to health reform implementation in Maryland. In that role Paige worked to advance access to treatment for those with mental health and substance use disorders and was successful in achieving significant advancements in parity enforcement and other protections for vulnerable individuals in the State health reform legislation. In 2013 Paige joined the law faculty at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University where she teaches clinical law practice and is the Attorney-in-Charge of the Health Law & Policy Clinic. In addition to its policy work in advancing access to care, the Clinic provides free legal services to benefit low-income individuals seeking access to health care and the organizations that serve such individuals.

June screenings reveal hypertension, diabetes among community members

Many immigrants flock to the United States to seek a better life – in search of better housing, better education, better healthcare. But what happens when they have to adapt to a English-speaking environment; to work long hours in laborious, mentally taxing jobs, making just enough to pay the rent; to live in a crowded apartment with poor living conditions? These factors often combine to cause conditions like hypertension and depression, and then healthcare is not something they’re privileged to receive.

AMPHS sees this scenario play out many times among our community members, especially in Sunset Park. While we do not serve as anyone’s primary care provider, our main goal is to equip community members with the resources to manage their own health and to let them know that there is somewhere to turn for help.

On Saturday, June 21st, we held our monthly healthcare event, providing community members with cardiovascular, dementia, and vision screenings, as well as long-term lifestyle counseling. Our partner, Latino Commission on AIDS, was also on site to provide free HIV screenings. A total of 13 community members were seen and over half were referred to additional resources from our partner organizations, including some who were able to sign up for exams for free prescriptive lenses.

Because of privacy and legal issues, we do not photograph our community members. This photo is from an article on Philly.com. Link in image credit at bottom of article.

This is a representative image, and is not of one of our community members. Link to image in credit at bottom of article.

Community members came from all walks of life, but what struck us was that many of the issues that they experienced came from strenuous labor, poor eating habits, and hard financial situations. One woman had lost her job because of a broken wrist and then was diagnosed with hypertension and ovarian cancer, but she was too scared to seek therapy due to negative experiences with the local hospital system and unable to pay for procedures because she didn’t have insurance. In situations like these, our clinicians and social workers try to provide them with the resources they need to combat these issues of fear and poor lifestyle behaviors. We address medical questions and concerns from a personalized standpoint to objectively consult with them on the best course of action.

We are happy to provide screenings like these every month. And we hope that community members view us not only as a medical resource but also as a friend when they are in need of any type of health and social assistance. The next in-house screenings will take place Saturday, July 19th and Saturday, August 20th from 1-5pm. We are also proud to announce that we have new screening equipment, thanks to the NYC Council and Barman’s Fund, which will be introduced during our screening this Saturday! Community members interested in scheduling an appointment should call (212) 256-9036.

Image credit: Philly.com