Introducing AMPHS’ New Oral Health Program

dental-health

Last month, AMPHS launched its Oral Health Program, a new initiative that incorporates free dental health services into its monthly clinical offerings. “We have seen an increasing number of community members at AMPHS with oral care needs,” explains AMPHS President and CEO Hewett Chiu, “but free dental services are often much more difficult to access than medical services.”

With so much national focus on the big-ticket items of healthcare reform, it’s easy to overlook just how vital dental care is to one’s overall well-being, not to mention the difficulty of access for the poor and uninsured. The Huffington Post reported last month on the tragic death of Kyle Willis, an unemployed, single father who simply could not afford the cost of a wisdom tooth extraction. His face “swelled like a balloon” before he went to the Emergency Room, where he was prescribed painkillers for $3 and antibiotics for $27. “Unable to afford both, he bought only the painkillers,” and soon after, “the infection spread to his brain.”

While this may seem like an extreme example, this unfortunate and entirely preventable circumstance illuminates the fissures in our current dental care landscape. The Huffington Post goes on to cite that “130 million Americans—over 40% of the population—do not have dental insurance.” And the burden on hospitals can be remarkable, a reported $2.7 billion in Emergency Department charges in a three-year period.

There has been progress. The Affordable Care Act does mandate dental coverage for individuals under 18, but the safety net for adults in need is thin to nonexistent, and even treatment for children has a long way to go toward equitability. According to a recent report by Pew Charitable Trusts, “low-income children are particularly vulnerable,” with 4 million children in 2012 having gone without dental care “because their families could not afford it.” The report’s analysis of the state-by-state delivery of low-cost sealants, which prevent tooth decay among at-risk children, finds that “most states are not meeting national goals.”

Medicaid also offers dental coverage, but that coverage varies depending on the state and is often limited to emergency treatment. Additionally, only 20% of dentists nationwide accept Medicaid.

These are some of the gaps that AMPHS hopes to fill for the Sunset Park community. Jie J. (JJ) Sun, our new Coordinator of Dental Health Services, is no stranger to these hurtles. A third-year pre-doctoral student at Harvard School of Dental Medicine, JJ has worked with diverse populations including refugees, homeless populations, and underserved communities overseas. She also coordinates oral screening programs and mission trip donations for Dentists for Humanity. “The primary goal of AMPHS’ Oral Health Program,” she says, “is to prevent dental diseases through good oral hygiene habits and a good understanding of how oral health can affect systemic health.”

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Jie J Sun, our new Coordinator of Dental Health Services

JJ explains that many in immigrant communities like Sunset Park don’t have dental insurance and don’t see dentists regularly unless they have dental pain. “Poor oral hygiene favors bacterial growth, which can lead to tooth decay and inflammation in the gum surrounding the teeth, a condition known as gingivitis. Over time, if gingival inflammation persists, periodontal disease will develop and result in irreversible bone loss.” Diabetes and heart disease have also been linked to poor oral health. “Many times, the earliest symptoms of a systemic disease manifest in the oral cavity first.”

The Center for Health Care Strategies lists the individual barriers to dental care for low-income adults as follows:

  • coordinating work, child care arrangements, and transportation
  • lack of awareness of dental benefits
  • gaps in oral health literacy
  • the perception that oral health is secondary to general health
  • primary care providers who may not encourage oral health care

Through counseling sessions and free oral screenings, AMPHS hopes to empower Brooklyn’s immigrant communities with more comprehensive care, the promotion of better oral hygiene practices, and the confidence to navigate the dental care options available to them. The initiative will also organize trainings for physicians on oral cancer screening and coordinate with existing community outreach programs.

“Currently, we are working with the American Student Dental Association and Chinese Student Association at NYU College of Dentistry to plan for oral screening events,” JJ says. “Dental students will be able to screen and educate community members, as well as refer those in need of treatment back to the NYU College of Dentistry for reduced costs.”

AMPHS is excited to provide these much-needed services and to participate in the growing national dialogue on the exigencies of equitable and accessible dental care.

Introducing Tuan Tran, Senior Vice President & Chief Operating Officer

Tuan Tran

Meet Tuan Tran, our new Senior Vice President & Chief Operating Officer.

Tuan came to the United States as a first-generation immigrant, speaking very little English. Having grown up in our neighborhood of Sunset Park, where he spent most of his young adult years, Tuan understands firsthand the difficulties that immigrant families face when seeking healthcare. Now the Lead Radiation Therapist at Mount Sinai Beth Israel with graduate training in Health Policy & Management, Tuan is looking forward to giving back to the very community he calls home.

We are very excited to welcome him to the AMPHS family and have no doubt he will be instrumental in helping AMPHS reach our next phase of growth.

Please join us in giving Tuan a very warm welcome!

AMPHS Engages Greater Brooklyn

Among the benefits of running a community-based health center is the direct engagement that can be achieved between healthcare providers and the people they serve. The traditional barriers that pervade our American healthcare landscape—rising costs of care, varying degrees of access to insurance, institutional divides between medical professionals and the general public, economic and political turbulence—are stripped away. A dialogue takes place in which the members of the community and their healthcare providers take equal part, and the specific needs of that community can be voiced.

Among the challenges of running a community-based health center is the ease with which that very community of providers and recipients can become isolated, especially when those recipients are made up of people who have been excluded from the American healthcare system—namely our low-income, immigrant neighbors. While we can have a dialogue with these individuals, their needs cannot always be met locally.

This is a challenge AMPHS is eager to take on. No health system can exist off the grid but rather depends on the coordination of a broader system of care to satisfy the diverse needs of a given region. And in return, that broader system depends on the work of community-based centers like ours to understand the complexities of the demands for care and to provide that care more efficiently, equitably, and cost-effectively.

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Volunteer Andreas conducts a hypertension workshop at The Temple of Restoration.

That is why AMPHS is getting out of its headquarters on 5306 Third Avenue and into the Greater Brooklyn community.

On February 7th, we hosted workshops and screenings at The Temple of Restoration in Prospect Heights as part of their first annual health fair. We also provided HIV and Hepatitis C screenings and mammograms in collaboration with Project Renewal, along with workshops on hypertension, diabetes and cholesterol management.

On March 21st, we collaborated with the Sunset Park Recreation Center to hold two workshops with a focus on women’s health.

Women's Empowerment Day

Volunteers Mon Yuck and Jessica conduct women’s health workshops at the Sunset Park Recreation Center.

And we are currently organizing a Health Empowerment Fair to be held in Sunset Park on June 6th. We anticipate at least 500 guests and are working to engage as many Brooklyn-based businesses, health and fitness professionals, and immigrant rights advocates as possible to participate in the day’s events, and to become an essential part of Brooklyn’s healthcare landscape.

If you are interested in learning more about our community events, participating in June’s Health Empowerment Fair, or if you simply have ideas about health and wellness in Brooklyn, please reach out to us. Join the conversation. Let’s work together to make Brooklyn a healthier place!

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).

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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.

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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!

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