By DEREK NORMAN
City officials expressed fear on Thursday that undocumented immigrants in the city might steer away from public health clinics and services as the Trump administration bolsters deportations.
The issue was the focus of a Department of Health and Mental Hygiene community board meeting as many members reported fewer visits by immigrants to their local clinics and emergency rooms. They urged partnering with the mayor’s office, as well strong public advocacy and community outreach to assure residents that they will be safe from immigration enforcement while receiving health care.
“I know the mayor has taken a very strong stance, but what is it that we can do for local services for these communities?” said Dr. Rosa Gil, a clinic operator. “We know the issues very well, but we need to hear from the people in these communities. At my clinic in the Bronx, we have seen the impacts – on children, on families – the level of depression is just unbelievable.”
Health officials suggested holding public forums to hear directly from residents about their health concerns in the current xenophobic climate created by the Trump Administration.
The board members swapped anecdotal experiences of a decrease in visits to emergency rooms and the like.
“The fear will drive people underground,” said Dr. Thelma Dye, Executive Director and CEO of Northside Center for Child Development.”
Dye added that, “in effect what happens is illness, disease, morbidity and mortality goes underground within these communities.”
Another suggestion was to work more closely with and provide resources for the Department of Education to combat illnesses among students from potentially sick people who have neglected their health.
“I’m not Pollyanna-ish,”said Christy Parque of the Coalition of Behavioral Health Agencies. I’m just thinking, okay, we need a strategy. What do we need to do to get people to understand that is not a political issue, this is about lives.”