Earlier this year, the Colorado Nonprofit Association awarded TCHNetwork with the 2019 Inclusiveness and Racial Equity Award at the Colorado Nonprofit Week Awards Luncheon. This prize is sponsored by the Denver Foundation and recognizes organizations working to engage community members in their health equity work and make racial equity a critical component of their programs and policies. According to an article in the Telluride Daily Planet in March of this year, Denver Foundation President and CEO Christine Márquez-Hudson said “social justice issues contribute to disparities in education, basic human needs, health and economic opportunities…[and] the Inclusiveness and Racial Equity Award celebrates those with the courage to create opportunities for those facing these issues.”
The race and ethnicity-based inequities in Colorado’s healthcare landscape create a situation where, for example, according to the Colorado Office of Health Equity, while only 17.6% of all Coloradans lack health insurance, 38.4% of Hispanic/Latino Coloradans lack health insurance. To fight against these and other inequities, Tri-County Health Network has expanded their Multicultural Advocacy Program to include Immigration Legal Services. Tri-County Health Network staff have attended a 40-hour comprehensive immigration law training and spent over 100 total hours job shadowing Accredited Representatives under the Department of Justice’s Recognition and Accreditation program. Tri-County Health Network anticipates being certified under this program by August 30, 2019.
This certification will allow Tri-County Health Network’s Accredited staff members to represent clients in immigration proceedings, including submitting family petitions for locals with family members abroad who wish to immigrate legally as well as help residents with DACA or Legal Permanent Residency Status to renew their status or help Legal Permanent Residents ‘naturalize’ or become U.S. citizens. Tri-County Health Network has already helped various local residents assist in their family member’s legal migration from abroad, or to renew an existing legal immigration status.
“The connection between our legal services program and health equity is crystal clear,” said Kody Gerkin, Tri-County Health Network’s Community Outreach Manager, and one of two staff to receive Accreditation under this new initiative. “Every member of the community who we can help gain legal status, or every immigrant who arrives in San Miguel County with legal status, is another person who can seek employer provided health insurance, or apply for coverage through Colorado’s marketplace, Connect for Health Colorado. Undocumented immigrants are structurally prohibited from acquiring health insurance in Colorado, including Medicaid. So, it’s simple for Tri-County Health Network, this program improves access to healthcare services for local immigrants who are VISA eligible,” Gerkin said.
“Unfortunately”, Gerkin continued, “for most immigrants who already live and work here who over-stayed their VISA or didn’t have one when they entered the U.S., it’s virtually impossible to qualify for a VISA no matter how long they’ve been here, how many U.S. citizen children one has, or how badly a boss may want to give a great employee, it’s just not that simple.”
If you know an immigrant who could benefit from these services or would like a VISA eligibility consultation, have them contact our offices at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970.708.7096.
–Kody Gerkin, Community Outreach Manager