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Mental Health First Aid at AMPHS

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AMPHS holds Mental Health First Aid training

It’s Memorial Day weekend, which means it’s the last weekend of Mental Health Awareness Month. But that doesn’t mean we can’t continue to spread awareness throughout the year on this critical and often misunderstood public health issue.

Mental health challenges—such as depression, anxiety, psychosis, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse—are shockingly common in the Unites States. Would you guess that more than 16 million American adults are affected by depression in a given year? Or that 3.3 million American adults suffer from bipolar disorder? Or that over 11 million Americans will experience psychosis in their lifetime?

At AMPHS, we’ve found that the stressors often endured by the low-income immigrant populations we serve can lead to many of these mental health challenges. Inadequate housing, financial hardship, social isolation, fear of deportation—it is no wonder that a 2008 study conducted by the Carolina Population Center at UNC-Chapel Hill found 30% of Latino adolescents in North Carolina (93% of whom were not US citizens) showed signs of sub-clinical or clinical anxiety, and 18% showed signs of depression. The Asian Outreach Program at The Child Center of NY also identifies “the stigma still surrounding mental health and substance abuse treatment in traditional Asian cultures” as a particular obstacle for newly immigrated Asian children and adolescents at higher risk for mental health and substance abuse issues.

That is why we at AMPHS are making mental health a priority. With The National Council for Behavioral Health, we are providing Mental Health First Aid courses to help individuals work with those who are developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. Identified on SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices, this training helps the public better identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses.

Based on the pioneering work of Mental Health First Aid founders Betty Kitchener and Tony Jorm, this 8-hour training certification course instructs participants on a five-step action plan to assess a situation, select and implement interventions, and secure appropriate care for the individual experiencing a mental health crisis. Thorough evaluations, in randomized controlled trials and a quantitative study, have proved this CPR-like program effective in improving trainees’ knowledge of mental disorders, reducing stigma, and increasing the amount of help provided to others.

This program is generously co-sponsored by Senator Jesse Hamilton, the Chinese-American Planning Council Brooklyn Community Center, and African Services Committee.

To learn more about Mental Health Awareness, visit Mental Health America whose awareness theme this year is Life with a Mental Illness, for which they’ve called on individuals to share what life with a mental illness feels like for them in words, pictures and video by tagging their social media posts with #mentalillnessfeelslike. All posts are collected here.

For more information on Academy of Medical & Public Health Services and our other training programs, visit www.amphsonline.org.

For more information on Mental Health First Aid, visit www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org.

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AMPHS Testifies at City Hall

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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.”

Understanding Mental Health in Sunset Park

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The graduates of AMPHS first mental health first aid training.

Many immigrants, particularly in Sunset Park, are at risk for developing mental health conditions due to assimilative stresses, domestic violence, bullying, separation from their families, and financial strain. This can lead to adverse consequences, including substance abuse, depression and suicide.

In support of Mayor de Blasio and First Lady McCray’s ThriveNYC initiative, AMPHS has launched a series of free mental health first aid trainings for the community, beginning in December 2015. The training course introduces participants to risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems and instructs them on a five-step action plan to assess a situation, select and implement interventions, and secure appropriate care for the suffering individual.

AMPHS held its first 2-day training this month in collaboration with the Office of Senator Jesse Hamilton, Chinese-American Planning Council Beacon Center, African Services Committee, and Mental Health Association of New York City, training over 25 community members on addressing mental health issues in their communities in the overwhelmingly popular class. Congratulations to all of our graduates!

Congrats to Mon Yuck Yu, 40 Under 40 Rising Star

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Mon Yuck Yu, AMPHS Executive Vice President & Chief of Staff

We at AMPHS couldn’t be more proud of Mon Yuck Yu, AMPHS Executive Vice President & Chief of Staff, for being selected as one of New York Nonprofit Media’s 40 Under 40 Rising Stars.

The daughter of a first-generation immigrant, Mon Yuck has long been devoted to the causes of New York City’s low-income and immigrant populations, specifically through the advancement of equitable and accessible health care.

Through AMPHS, Mon Yuck has worked tirelessly to advocate for those without documentation, health insurance, the means, or perhaps the language skills to navigate the U.S. healthcare system on their own. She’s performed community needs assessments to guide the free health services AMPHS provides from their headquarters in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. She coordinates with local government officials, partner organizations in health and immigrant justice, and AMPHS’ own volunteer force to provide these much-needed services, such as physical exams, Hepatitis C and HIV screenings, mammograms, blood testing, flu shots, dental services, eye exams, as well as health counseling and other social services.

On screening days, Mon Yuck often serves as an interpreter as well, speaking to community members in English, Chinese, and Spanish. She also conducts CPR, First Aid and emergency preparedness workshops. Her fundraising and outreach accomplishments include AMPHS’ first annual Health Empowerment Celebration this past summer, which brought hundreds of Brooklyn residents to Sunset Park for health-related activities, demonstrations, and information from a variety of local businesses and organizations.

Mon Yuck, whose father, an immigrant carpenter with meager benefits, passed away from cancer felt disempowered by the healthcare system and felt that people like him needed a voice. She was not alone. Brooklyn, New York 2015

Mon Yuck assists community members at AMPHS Headquarters.

Through her efforts, Mon Yuck has bettered not only the standing of this young healthcare initiative, only in its fifth year, but also the standard of care for the underserved communities she works with. We cannot think of anyone more passionate about nonprofit work or more deserving of this incredible honor.

In addition to her work for AMPHS, Mon Yuck has held various positions at American Red Cross, Chinese-American Planning Council, FEMA and New York State Assembly. She has a background in Psychology and Anthropology from Dartmouth College and NYU and is currently pursuing a degree in Public Administration at Columbia University. ‎

Would You Like to Work at AMPHS?

AMPHS staff and volunteers convene before patients arrive in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

AMPHS Seeks Program Assistant

The Program Assistant is responsible for assisting in the implementation and administration of the health screening, education, and training programs at the Academy of Medical and Public Health Services. Responsibilities can include event coordination, outreach, client communication, and basic reception and clerical duties. The candidate will work directly with Executive Management staff to ensure that the organization runs smoothly and efficiently.

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Respond to client inquiries via phone and email, screen and direct calls, and relay messages
  • Conduct outreach to community-based organizations and businesses for partnerships and awareness-building
  • Coordinate logistics for the AMPHS Clinical Practice Training Program for pre-health students
  • Schedule appointments and appointment reminders for screenings, workshops, and trainings and maintain the organization’s events calendar
  • Schedule meetings and training sessions for volunteers
  • Manage and maintain a Salesforce contacts database for volunteers, partners, and donors
  • Assist in coordinating logistics for in-house health screenings, including event outreach (flyering) and pre-screening patient intake
  • Assist in the preparation of outreach and educational materials
  • Update organizational policies and procedures manuals as needed
  • Work with Executive Management to send program updates to clients and volunteers
  • Prepare letters to stakeholders, including supporters and clients
  • Monitor the use of office equipment and supplies and maintain office inventory

Qualifications:

  • Preference given to candidates with a bachelors degree or higher. College juniors and seniors also considered.
  • Demonstrated knowledge of clerical and administrative procedures.
  • Previous experience in an office environment.
  • Knowledge and familiarity with basic computer programs, such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Adobe Acrobat, and email systems.
  • Demonstrated competency in writing and communication.
  • Bilingual fluency in Spanish and/or Chinese preferred.
  • Knowledge in graphic design a plus.

To Apply:

Please submit a copy of your cover letter, resume, writing sample, and most recent transcript (if still in school or recent graduate) to personnel.resources@amphsonline.org.

Commitment to Care in NYC

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AMPHS volunteers receive the 2015 EmblemHealth Commitment to Care Award

On Wednesday, September 30, AMPHS was honored to receive the 2015 EmblemHealth Commitment to Care Award alongside such admirable organizations as the Chinese-American Planning Council​ Nan Shan Senior Center and the Flushing Chinese Business Association.

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Councilman Peter Koo speaking at the EmblemHealth Commitment to Care Lecture & Award Ceremony

Councilman Peter Koo, affectionately referred to as the “Mayor” of Flushing, spoke at the event about the rising costs of care in the U.S., something he’s uniquely qualified to speak to as a pharmacist. With the price of life-saving drugs skyrocketing and crippling bills being issued for even a two-mile trip in an ambulance (Councilman Koo sardonically advised the audience that they might be better off finding another route to the hospital), the councilman thanked the recipients of the award for their efforts to disrupt such an inequitable and unsustainable system.

Dr. Russell Petrella, EVP of EmblemHealth, says the following about AMPHS: “The Academy of Medical & Public Health Services is one of three distinguished organizations that will be honored for its commitment to enhancing the quality of life in New York City. The Academy’s dedication to providing care, services, and support to the residents of New York is commendable. To celebrate this outstanding contribution, we would like to present [AMPHS] with the Commitment to Care Award for eliminating barriers to clinical health care services for underserved immigrant populations.”

Previous recipients of the award include the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Chinese American Medical Society, National Council of Negro Women, Organization of Chinese Americans, Harlem Children’s Zone, Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, and University Settlement, among other notable organizations. We at AMPHS couldn’t be happier to be included among these important and influential ranks, and to work together to ensure the basic human right of quality healthcare for all NYC residents.

Our heartfelt thanks to EmblemHealth for this incredible honor, and to our volunteers who make the work we do at AMPHS possible.

Introducing AMPHS’ New Oral Health Program

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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

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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!