National Public Health Week, from April 2 through April 8, provided a good reminder of the health equity challenges facing Oregon’s immigrant communities.
According to Elena Rivera, Children’s Institute’s senior health policy and program advisor, “Thousands of children in Oregon were falling through the cracks and not getting the health care they needed.” With the passage of Senate Bill 558 in 2017, however, Oregon became the seventh state in the nation to extend health care coverage to all children and teens younger than 19 regardless of immigration status. “Now,” Ms. Rivera goes on to explain, “all children in Oregon have access to health services like regular check-ups, developmental screenings and dental care. We know that when kids are healthy, they do better in school.” The law, which will impact an estimated 15,000 children and teens, also requires the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Human Services to advise providers on culturally and linguistically responsive outreach.
The efforts to pass SB 558 and enroll immigrant children and teens in the Oregon Health Plan (OHP) provide a model for effective community engagement. Beginning in 2016, a coalition of over 90 organizations around the state came together with impacted immigrant communities to listen and respond to the experiences of community members, and engage trusted messengers to help spread the word about the program. Aldo Solano, advocacy director of the Oregon Latino Health Coalition, explains the importance of personal stories in passing the bill: “On multiple occasions throughout the campaign we had community members who had never set foot inside the capitol building come in and talk to their state representatives and senators about why Cover All Kids was important to them.”
To learn more about OHP including enrollment information and health care services covered, visit www.OHPnowCOVERSme.org.