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Sanford Herald Feature—Study pinpoints obstacles for local minorities

Byline: Brandi BrownBIC

Sept. 22–SANFORD — Lee County’s growing immigrant population faces several hurdles in adjusting to living in the community, according to a new study issued Monday.

A report released by the University of Chapel Hill’s Latino Migration Project details seven areas — health care, picture identification, education, government communication, police interaction, public transportation and workers’ rights — where immigrants in Lee County say they have difficulties. The goal of the report is to identify the needs of the immigrants who make up one-fifth of Lee County’s population and to share their recommendations with the community.

Researchers collected surveys from 307 foreign-born residents and conducted bilingual meetings with 225 immigrant residents in Lee County. The results of those responses, along with data analysis from Sanford/Lee County Strategic Services and the U.S. Census Bureau formed the basis of the report.

The report is another step in the identifying the needs of minorities as part of the statewide Building Integrated Communities initiative that helps North Carolina local governments successfully engage with Latinos and other immigrant communities in order to improve public safety, promote economic development, enhance communication and improve relationships. Sanford, along with Winston Salem, was selected for the imitative.

Among the biggest problems cited was the need for improved access to health care services. This lack of access has a variety of sources, according to the report. Immigrant residents often cannot afford the cost of either insurance or out-of-pocket medical expenses. In addition, they may not be able to travel to doctors’ offices or clinics because of the lack of public transportation, and language barriers persist once the patients arrive at their destination.

Among the resident recommendations cited in study to improve health care were offer affordable medications, offer lower cost medical, dental and mental health services as well as open community health clinics or public hospitals nearby.

Crystal Hickman, director of public relations at Central Carolina Hospital, said that the hospital has a number of services in place to help address the needs of patients who do not speak English.

“We have an onsite interpreter who can speak with patients as that need arises. We also have a language line with a number of languages that we can access if an interpreter is not available,” she said.

As for the high cost of health care that is an issue that the hospital has plans in place to address for all low-income patients.

“Of course, we have to see anyone who comes in with an emergency health situation. We do write off some cases as part of our charity care for people who cannot afford it,” Hickman said. “We also have one-on-one counseling. Someone will come to a patient’s room and go through options, such as ACA [Affordable Care Act] eligibility and sign-up. The materials that we have are in Spanish and English.”
Improved communication with providers of city services is another issue that the report highlights.

“Discussion groups emphasized a need for improved communication, including more Spanish-language communication, of information about basic city/county regulations and services, civic rights and responsibilities, and community resources,” according to the report.

The next step is for officials behind the Latino Migration Project to create strategies to address identified needs, which will take the form of a recommended action plan for the city, said Hannah Gill, director of the Latino Migration Project, in an April 4 edition of The Herald.

Sanford Mayor Chet Mann was unavailable for comment Monday.

The full report is available at
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By Brandi Brown