On March 28, AMPHS President & CEO Hewett Chiu was invited to address the New York City Council on the importance of continued funding for Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito‘s Immigrant Health Initiative. Read Chiu’s full testimony below:

“Good afternoon. My name is Hewett Chiu, and I am the President & CEO at the Academy of Medical and Public Health Services (AMPHS). AMPHS is a not-for-profit healthcare organization in Sunset Park that provides free clinical screenings integrated with individualized health education and social services to the immigrant populations of New York City. Our mission is to deinstitutionalize healthcare and make it a basic human right for all New Yorkers. We provide our services free of charge and without discrimination to documentation status, socioeconomic status, and any other demographic factor. In the past six years we have been operating, we have grown right alongside implementation of the Affordable Care Act and NYS Medicaid Reform, and we have come to realize that both grassroots outreach and coordination of care are critical to ensuring the health and wellbeing of entire communities in New York City.

“As just one of many examples, we had a middle-age female Asian immigrant walk into our center speaking not a word of English. Let’s call her Ms. L. She initially came in because she wanted to check her blood pressure. Once the on-site clinicians began to talk to her and a certain level of trust was established, Ms. L opened up to us. It turns out she was under a lot of stress as a single mother raising three young boys as a new immigrant to our great city. She told us that several times, she had considered jumping off a cliff or into the ocean with her boys to take her family out of her agony. Serious conditions like mental health disorders, STDs, and HIV are so stigmatized in the immigrant populations that they are rarely discussed, but yet can be so prevalent. We find that we need to spend the time to conduct targeted public health interventions to ensure those with such conditions are properly screened for risk factors.

“What initially was just a blood pressure check turned into a lifesaving intervention that day – not just for Ms. L, but for three young children as well. We provided the medical screenings, initial counseling and guidance to Ms. L, and acted as a pair of ears that immigrants so rarely have in healthcare. We then seamlessly coordinated her next steps and made the proper referrals to a sliding scale mental health clinic for ongoing follow up care. Today, Ms. L is embracing life and supporting her boys through school.

“There are many more Ms. L’s out there. They do not know the resources available for them, and more importantly, they do not know the detrimental effects of not seeking care when they need to. The Immigrant Health Initiative is a key cornerstone to ensuring everyone in New York City will feel comfortable accessing appropriate health services at the appropriate time. It allows us to work closely with other vital community partners such as the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest to provide comprehensive wrap-around services that address a full continuum of care.

“Continued funding under the Immigrant Health Initiative will enable us to (1) leverage the grassroots model we already have and increase outreach to our immigrant populations in Sunset Park, a neighborhood identified by Mayor DeBlasio in October as being an underserved community for primary health care; (2) implement a new culturally sensitive public health education model to destigmatize specific serious health conditions through one-on-one outreach and counseling; and (3) more effectively coordinate care for our population, thus helping to reduce the administrative burden that providers today find they are facing. Ongoing coordinated preventive care is much more cost effective and a better intervention than emergency care, when it could already be too late. The Immigrant Health Initiative can truly help us save more lives, and I humbly thank the City Council for funding the initiative this past fiscal year and strongly urge the Council to continue fully funding this initiative.

“Thank you.”