The program, called FRIENDS (Families Reaching in Ever New Directions), was greeted warmly by health care officials at its ribbon-cutting in the Bronx on January 7th. It is an advancement of existing programs that offered health care to the undocumented.
But adminstrators have noticed almost immediately that undocumented immigrants are still reluctant to use the service even though they were at no risk from having their lack of status disclosed.
“People who may have recently emigrated to this country can be distrustful about things like this,” said Radames Carlo, Project Supervisor for Health Insurance Programs at FRIENDS. “Especially if they don’t have a social security card, or are in the process of getting a green card or haven’t even applied.”
FRIENDS now finds its task is to convince undocumented and uninsured New Yorkers that the program is open to them.
“We also help undocumented adults gather the information they need to receive health insurance under a similar program,” said Carlo.
The Irish organizations and charities are also part of this plan of attack. But the hurdles to cross are many: some very poor immigrants are simply used to living with health problems and physical discomfort.
“A mother of five came in to us,” explained Carlo. She had no household income except motnhly SSI checks for the children. She also had breast cancer. We got her on medicaid. She is now getting the chemotherapy and medications she couldn’t have afforded otherwise.”
Further information about the program is available from (718)402-3900.