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Press Releases

Immigrant Heritage Week Celebrated at NYC Health + Hospitals

The health system reaffirms its commitment to supporting all immigrants, regardless of their immigration status or ability to pay

As a part of this commitment, NYC Health + Hospitals proudly operates seven Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers (HERRCs) to support nearly 15,000 asylum seekers from all over the world

Individual NYC Health + Hospitals facilities are hosting Immigrant Heritage Week events

Apr 21, 2023

New York, NY

NYC Health + Hospitals celebrated NYC Immigrant Heritage Week. NYC Health + Hospitals provides health care services to over one million New Yorkers each year — many of whom are immigrants. As part of its mission, the public health system is committed to extending equally to all New Yorkers, regardless of their ability to pay, comprehensive health services of the highest quality in an atmosphere of humane care, dignity, and respect. Additionally, NYC health + Hospitals has responded to the asylum seeker crisis, eliminated the six-month residency requirement for NYC Care, and invested approximately $18 million annually to provide 24/7 assistance in 300 languages and dialects through telephonic, video and in-person interpretation, including sign-language services, to ensure patients receive safe, quality care in their language. Immigrant Heritage Week originally started in 2004 and marks April 17, 1907 when 11,000 immigrants — the most in one day — passed through Ellis Island.

“As we kick off Immigrant Heritage Week and celebrate our diverse team of doctors, nurses, and staff and the patients they serve, NYC Health + Hospitals remains steadfastly committed to providing care for all who seek our services, including the recent influx of asylum seekers through the launch of the Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers,” said NYC Health + Hospitals President and CEO Mitchell Katz, MD. “Many of our staff are immigrants themselves and understand some of the unique challenges and barriers to care faced by recent immigrants in particular. As the largest municipal hospital system in the country, we will continue to champion healthcare equity and encourage all to seek the care they are entitled to.”

“The Office of Diversity and Inclusion is committed to meeting our patient needs and enhancing the patient experience via the provision of training, addressing unconscious biases, and supporting the identification and provision of language services to ensure communication needs are met,” said Ivelesse Mendez-Justiniano, Chief Learning Officer and Interim Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, NYC Health + Hospitals. “As part of these efforts, our Medical Interpreter Skills program will be expanded to include Haitian Creole. We look forward to our continued work with patients, staff, and the community in identifying areas where we may be of assistance.”

Responding to the Humanitarian Crisis

NYC Health + Hospitals has responded to the asylum seeker crisis, operating nine Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers (HERRCs) for nearly 15,000 asylum seekers since the crisis began. Through its heath care, language and legal access programs, the health system’s accessible, culturally and linguistically appropriate services ensure full access to comprehensive and quality care for all New Yorkers. NYC Health + Hospitals does not collect information on a patient’s immigration status and it never releases patient information without authorization by the patient or without being required to do so by law.

The family and adult humanitarian centers provide a one-stop concentration of services, including three fresh meals and healthy snacks, round-the-clock medical care, access to vaccinations, mental health support, language interpretation, school enrollment, insurance enrollment, and resettlement services. To date, HERRC staff have provided asylum seekers over 15,000 vaccinations—including over 10,000 vaccinations to children who are then eligible to enroll in New York City public schools—and enrolled over 10,000 people in health insurance. Since our humanitarian centers welcomed their first guests, nearly 5,000 asylum seekers have been reconnected with their families or reached their desired destination. 

NYC Care: A Model for Healthcare Equity

NYC Care is a health care access program that guarantees low-cost and no-cost services to New Yorkers who do not qualify for or cannot afford health insurance. NYC Care launched in the Bronx in August 2019 and has been available across all five boroughs for over two years. Those interested in the program can call 646-NYC CARE (646-692-2273).

Last year, the program eliminated the six-month residency eligibility requirement for NYC Care members. This change allows recent immigrants access to quality health care once they arrive in New York. This year, NYC Care partnered with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and Mercato, a grocery delivery company, to launch the Groceries to Go program. The program provides eligible New Yorkers with credits to purchase groceries online, for delivery or pickup, from an online grocery platform called Mercato. The program is available for NYC Care members who are at risk of food insecurity and report a diagnosis of hypertension or diabetes.

Language Access is Better, Safer Care

There are over 300 languages spoken in New York City. NYC Health + Hospitals invests approximately $18 million annually to provide 24/7 assistance in 300 languages and dialects through telephonic, video and in-person interpretation, including sign-language services, to ensure patients receive safe, quality care in their language. The health system responds to 1.8 million requests for interpretation services annually, which translates into more than 25 million minutes of interpretation services every year. Evidence shows that health care services provided in the patient’s primary language leads to fewer medical errors and increases medication adherence and compliance with doctors’ recommendations.

This month, NYC Health + Hospitals enrolled 182 employees for its medical interpreter skills training course. Sponsored by the Office of Diversity & Inclusion, the 40-hour course has expanded from Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese and Russian to include Haitian Creole. The program allows the public health system to expand its linguistic capabilities. Training participants were from the health system’s hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities. The training is free for employees and voluntary.

Legal Services are Health Care

NYC Health + Hospitals provides patient access to legal services for immigration issues via a medical-legal partnership with the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG). This groundbreaking program – the longest-running and largest medical-legal partnership in the country dates back to 2002 – addresses patients’ health-related legal matters and concerns. Lawyers, assigned to hospital and clinic facilities, can address matters related to residency, citizenship, visas, and asylum as well as a wide range of other civil legal issues.

These services are available at all NYC Health + Hospitals acute care hospitals as well as a number of outpatient sites. Any patient with a need for services can be connected to an attorney by a member of the patient’s care team.

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MEDIA CONTACT: Press Office, 212-788-3339

About NYC Care

NYC Care is a healthcare access program that provides comprehensive and low or no-cost healthcare services through NYC Health + Hospitals for New Yorkers who cannot afford or are ineligible for health insurance. NYC Care provides a membership card, 24/7 customer service, access to comprehensive and affordable healthcare services, like primary care, mental health services, and sexual and reproductive healthcare, low-cost medications, and member materials in multiple languages – regardless of your immigration status or ability to pay. Call 646-NYC-CARE (646-692-2273) or visit www.nyccare.nyc to learn more and sign up today – privacy and confidentiality guaranteed.

About NYC Health + Hospitals

NYC Health + Hospitals is the largest municipal health care system in the nation. We are a network of 11 hospitals, trauma centers, neighborhood health centers, nursing homes, and post-acute care centers. We are a home care agency and a health plan, MetroPlus. Our health system provides essential services to more than one million New Yorkers every year in more than 70 locations across the city’s five boroughs. Our diverse workforce of more than 43,000 employees is uniquely focused on empowering New Yorkers, without exception, to live the healthiest life possible. For more information, visit www.nychealthandhospitals.org and stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.