Community Engagement

AMPHS Announced as Complete Count Fund Awardee Joining Citywide Effort to Ensure a Fair and Complete Count

New York, NY— Academy of Medical & Public Health Services is pleased to announce it has received a $75,000 award from the NYC Complete Count Fund — a partnership between CUNY, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Council. The NYC Complete Count Fund is a first-of-its-kind Census-related community organizing program that will support and resource community-based organizations to help NYC reach a full and accurate count in the 2020 Census. These funds will support Census outreach through AMPHS health and education programs.

The Complete Count Fund was built with the understanding that local community-based organizations — which serve New Yorkers in the communities where they live and in the languages that they speak — are the most trusted messengers of important and sensitive information.

AMPHS is proud to join this coordinated citywide effort to build awareness about the census, convey its importance, fight the spread of mis- and disinformation, and help bridge the digital divide that might prevent many New Yorkers from participating in next year’s first online census.

A complete count is important to ensuring that the communities AMPHS serves receive funding for community resources to maintain healthy communities. In 2010, Sunset Park and Borough Park were designated two of the country’s hardest-to-count neighborhoods, housing ten of the tracts with the lowest response rates, with the lowest at 56.6%. In one tract, 24.9% of households had limited internet access and only 1% had a cellular data plan, indicating low projected response rates to the digital Census 2020 survey. Sunset Park alone houses nearly 130,000 residents — nearly half who are immigrants lacking English proficiency and are uninsured or underinsured; about a third who live in poverty. It is also home to one of NYC’s highest concentration of undocumented and newly arrived immigrants.

AMPHS recognizes the importance of increased outreach in hard-to-count communities in ensuring proper Congressional and electoral representation, funding allocations, and redistricting. Bolstered with our long history in Sunset Park, we will approach Census outreach by building Census awareness into our various existing and forthcoming health and education programs. We will center its Census outreach activities on immigrant communities in Sunset Park and neighboring South Brooklyn areas of Bay Ridge, Besonhurst, New Utrecht and Borough Park, concentrating primarily on Latino, Chinese, and Muslim populations. Specific strategies include: 

  • Integrating Census education into AMPHS’ education and social services
  • Conducting “civics” workshops and Census completion sessions as a part of our Adult Literacy ESOL course curriculum
  • Conducting community workshops and disseminating information at partner sites throughout the community
  • Working with local Councilmembers to integrate Census education into participatory budgeting outreach initiatives
  • Holding Census Days of Action to conduct active grassroots street outreach and business canvassing
  • Holding specialized events such as pop-up clinics, health fairs and career resource days that include Census outreach
  • Implementing social media and texting campaigns for Census outreach

“As the number of immigrants continue to grow, we cannot allow issues like housing, healthcare, employment, and school overcrowding — which already plague our community — to continue to affect its socioeconomic vitality, health and wellness,” said Mon Yuck Yu, AMPHS’ Executive Vice President.

In 2015, New York received $53 billion in federal funding for programs like Medicaid, Medicare Part B, Section 8, Title 1 grants and SNAP — making up a third of state funding. Brooklyn was one of the most undercounted counties across the country.

“That’s why we have schools with 30 students crammed into one classroom; why community members wait hours in the emergency room before being seen; why we still have families of five or six living together in one small living room,” Yu states. “Only with a fair and accurate Census count can we ensure that adequate funding is allocated to reverse this situation and ensure that our communities remain healthy and safe.”

A complete and accurate count is critical to the future of New York City. The census will determine how more than $650 billion in federal funds for public education, public housing, roads and bridges, and more, gets distributed annually throughout the country. It will also determine the number of seats each state is allocated in the House of Representatives (and thus, the Electoral College). Based on current estimates, an undercount could cost the State of New York up to two congressional seats.

In such a complex city, enriched by such linguistic and cultural diversity, New York City’s full participation in the first online census faces a unique set of challenges. As New Yorkers, we have embraced these challenges as an opportunity. Together, these citywide efforts will lay the groundwork for a civic engagement apparatus that will continue well beyond the 2020 census. 

According to Yu, “there are incessant barriers to help us achieve an accurate count. The digital divide, the fear of ICE being at the door, the fear of repercussions for completing the Census — all of these issues are real. Community groups like ours become one of their few trusted sources of information, providing the cultural and linguistic competence to educate our communities. With this funding, we be part of a movement to ensure that our communities will not be undercounted again in 2020.”

The Complete Count Fund will launch in early January with an all-day kick-off event and training.

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About your organization

AMPHS aims to make care more accessible to immigrant New Yorkers through grassroots, culturally-sensitive intervention methods and de-institutionalized healthcare environments. AMPHS’ mission is to identify and address barriers to health and wellness; coordinate needed primary care with social assistance; and deliver care with dignity and empathy to marginalized immigrant communities. Through its public health interventions, AMPHS lends to the empowerment of individuals and communities to create their own local and culturally-sensitive health and wellness paradigms, making healthcare more personable, accessible and holistic.

AMPHS provides coordinated and integrated interventions in three program areas—clinical services, social services, and education—addressing the root causes contributing to the health disparities and poor outcomes facing immigrant populations. Programs include: free health screenings and medical/dietary consultations; mental health therapy; social assistance counseling; health literacy, health access, and immigrant rights workshops; English Adult Literacy classes; Mental Health First Aid workshops; and emergency preparedness training. It also publishes health and immigrant resource guides for community education and coordinate monthly pop-up health events, as well as an annual resource fair serving over 1,250 people per year, where it provides free testing and community resources.        

About NYC Census 2020
NYC Census 2020 was established as a first-of-its-kind organizing initiative by Mayor de Blasio to ensure a complete and accurate count of all New Yorkers in the 2020 Census. The program is built on four pillars: (1) a community-based awards program, The New York City Complete Count Fund; (2) an in-house “Get Out the Count” field campaign; (3) an innovative, multi-lingual, tailored messaging and marketing; as well as (4) an in-depth Agency and Partnerships engagement plan that seeks to leverage the power of the City’s 350,000-strong workforce and the city’s major institutions, including libraries, hospitals, faith-based, cultural institutions, and higher educational institutions, and more, to communicate with New Yorkers about the critical importance of census participation.

Celebrating the Holidays with Love

Thank you to everyone who joined us for our AMPHS Holiday Party & Toy/Clothing Drive on December 12th! We had a blast amid drinks, food, games and live jazz. With everyone’s contributions, AMPHS collected over 250 toys and clothing donations! We appreciate everyone who came out to support us, including Team Carlos Menchaca, Zellnor Myrie, and Mark Treyger. Plus, a huge thank you to Empowerment of Asian Americans and MetroPlus Health Plan for the 175+ toys they contributed!

The toys were distributed during AMPHS Annual Holiday Health Extravaganza on December 14th, where 200 children from the families we serve brought home a toy to celebrate the holiday spirit and a bundle of joy that they deserve.

Toy Drive
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Every year at our AMPHS Holiday Party & Toy/Clothing Drive, we also honor a partner organization and rockstar volunteer and team member for their exemplary service. This year we are honored to recognize the recipients of our Volunteer of the Year Award, Dr. Htun Min Aung; Advocate of the Year Award, Kathleen Iverson, LCSW; and Building Healthy Communities Award, Chinese-American Planning Council.

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The Volunteer of the Year Award goes to a volunteer who has displayed strong dedication to community service. Dr. Aung volunteers at AMPHS’ clinic twice a month to help provide health screenings for the immigrants in Sunset Park. Many of our community members has not seen a doctor in as many as 40 years. Htun will take his time to work with each community member and make sure they are equipped with the healthcare information they need, sometimes spending 45 minutes to 1 hour with each community member. And he makes sure to never miss a screening day — even if it means coming straight from the airport!

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The Advocate of the Year Award goes to a trailblazing staff member who fights endlessly for our community members, advocating for their rights and expressing the true spirit of the AMPHS mission. Our Social Worker, Kathleen tirelessly fights for the needs and rights of AMPHS’ community members, on both a systemic and individual level. She is always there to provide our communities with services they need — to let them know which direction to turn, to follow up with them; she is a mentor for our teams and will always be able to make a sound judgment about the right course of action.

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Finally, the Building Healthy Communities Award goes to a partner organization that has been truly dedicated to working together to advance the health and wellness of the our communities. The Chinese-American Planning Council has always been there to support our community work, from participating in our annual Health Empowerment Celebration to partnering on outreaching to the community for events and providing space for our evening ESOL classes.

We are so lucky to work with each and every one of you to service our community! Congratulations to all of our honorees!

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

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.

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.


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.

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

AMPHS talks to seniors in Sunset Park

Brain health is important to all of us, and especially to our seniors. So AMPHS’s Hewett Chiu was glad to speak to around 60 people recently at the CAIPA Social Daycare center in Sunset Park.

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The center ensures that Asian-American seniors in the community receive culturally sensitive care and services to increase their quality of life. And so on July 5th, the center held its Summer Festival, which also included dancing, karaoke, and a ping pong tournament.

AMPHS was glad to be in attendance, and it’s always good to see our local Assemblyman, Felix W. Ortiz, who also stopped by to visit.

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Pre-health students get a headstart

The first session of AMPHS’ Clinical Practice Training Program (CPTP) is now underway! The 6-week course aims to provide participants with a strong overview of the material, concepts, principles, behaviors, and critical thinking needed to succeed in clinical practice.

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Through lectures, class discussions, community-based fieldwork, and hands-on clinical practice sessions, students will be able to develop a deeper appreciation for the rigor and intensity of studying the medical sciences.

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In addition to equipping students with skills to prepare for future clinical work, the coursework is developed to inherently integrate public health and clinical research principles into the clinical sciences for students to better understand both theory and practice in healthcare.

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There is still space available for our fall session, and the deadline for applications is July 25th. For information on how to sign up, or to read more about the program, please visit our CPTP site.