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Efforts To Increase Health Care Access To Immigrants

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The San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday examined the Community Ambassadors Program for Seniors, a program offered in Fremont, Calif., that trains volunteers to "go into their own ethnic- or faith-based communities to teach elders to access transportation, social activities and health care" services. CAPS began in March as an offshoot of the Pathways to Positive Aging project, which is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and "designed to help seniors find 'culturally enriching and affordable services and opportunities,'" according to the Chronicle.

The foundation awarded $300,000 to the CAPS program. CAPS is a collaboration of six community groups that serve immigrant populations. The program for one month trains volunteers to become a "community ambassador" and reach out to aging residents. According to the Chronicle, California has more residents over age 65 than any other state, as well as the second most diverse aging population.

Mary Anne Mendall, director of CAPS and chief administrator of Aging & Family Services for the City of Fremont Human Services Department, said the city "realized our traditional services weren't reaching all our ethnic groups -- or were not necessarily culturally appropriate for" the new, increasing population of elderly immigrants.

John Hsieh, president of the Taiwanese Community Help Association, said in his culture, seniors rarely seek help for services, adding that "often means they go back to Taiwan for lower-cost health care," especially for long-term care, which is more affordable in their home country. Language and cultural barriers, as well as a lack of transportation, also can prevent elderly immigrants from taking advantage of available community resources (Benson, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/20).

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San Francisco ID Measure Could Help Immigrants Obtain City Services
San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano on Tuesday introduced an ordinance -- supported by Mayor Gavin Newsom -- that will give city residents the option of receiving an identification card to obtain city services, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. In order to receive the card, individuals would have to prove their identities and that they live in San Francisco.

Ammiano said the card could help undocumented immigrants obtain basic public services, such as access to city health programs, and participate in civic activities. He added, "If you don't have an identification card, if you don't have certain papers, then you are invisible." Ammiano said, "A lot of people are asking, 'Well, are you breaking the law?' and our understanding is that we are not." San Francisco is a sanctuary city, meaning that the city does not permit use of city resources to enforce federal immigration law, the Chronicle reports.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, said such an ordinance could undermine federal efforts to curb illegal immigration. He added, "The only way immigration enforcement will really work is to make it as difficult as possible for illegal immigrants to live here."

New Haven, Conn., began issuing similar identification cards earlier this summer, the Chronicle reports (Buchanan, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/19).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.