Health Network: Guiding Asylum Seekers to Prenatal Care
Claire Hutkins Seda, Senior Writer & Editor, Migrant Clinicians Network
After crossing the Rio Grande, 21-year-old Maria Garcia,* finally on US soil after a long journey, immediately asked for asylum. Garcia was fleeing from danger in her home country in Central America. US Customs and Border Patrol brought her into custody to begin processing her asylum claim. When she complained of abdominal pain, Garcia was brought to a clinic, where she discovered she was pregnant. Her asylum case pending, Garcia was released to a nearby immigration shelter, where she was welcomed with warm food, a place to stay while she contacted family members in another part of Texas, and an initial exam to make sure her pregnancy was going well. MCN partners with the immigration center to ensure that newly arrived migrants and asylum seekers with ongoing health conditions are provided with case management so they can get the much-needed and often urgent care they need when they arrive in their receiving community.
“This was the quickest case I’ve ever had,” recounted Alma Colmenero, Prenatal Coordinator for Health Network, Migrant Clinicians Network’s virtual case management, who picked up Garcia’s case when she arrived at the immigration shelter. Colmenero, who has worked with Health Network since 2015, rarely has cases that run so smoothly. After a Health Network Associate at the immigration shelter enrolled Garcia into Health Network, Colmenero called Garcia’s anchor contact – a relative or good friend who keeps contact with the patient, who is not migrating – to verify information. Then, she determined where Garcia planned to go next: a large metropolitan area in another part of Texas, where some of Garcia’s close relatives live. She quickly found a community health center near Garcia’s family. Colmenero managed to schedule a prenatal appointment and forward Garcia’s medical records to the health center within 24 hours of enrollment, while Garcia was traveling to her new city. The following day, Garcia had her first prenatal appointment at her new health center, where she would continue care through birth.
Garcia’s new health center “provides many services – WIC, vaccines, dental, women’s health, pediatric – so everything is set for her and her baby,” Colmenero noted. As part of Garcia’s care, Colmenero will regularly check up on Garcia until her baby is born, after which Colmenero will close Garcia’s case.
MCN has partnered with community health centers, immigration shelters, health departments, and other points of care across the country to offer Health Network to anyone who is moving with an ongoing health condition, a service that is free for the enrolling health care provider, the migrant, and the receiving health care provider. At times, this may mean an agricultural worker with diabetes who is moving regularly with the seasons; at other times, the patient is a college student with active tuberculosis who is moving back to his home country. In recent years, MCN has helped thousands of pregnant asylum seekers as they struggle to find basic prenatal care when they arrive in the US. Learn more about Health Network, the services available, the new initiatives that grow our work to serve asylum-seeking children and families, and how to enroll patients at:
Read this article in the Spring 2022 issue of Streamline here!
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