By: April Harrison
Women’s Philanthropic Network Director

Immigrant and Refugee Integration: Medical Costs are a Concern for Refugee Families.

I recently was on a tour with a few WPN members of our Welcome Center, Hser Ner Moo and I heard the following story from the Outreach Specialist, Kendrick LaFleur.  Hser Ner Moo is a community center that is located at the South Parc apartment complex located South Salt Lake. Kendrick works with the many refugee families who live in the complex by assisting in job search, accessing English learning opportunities, ensuring that basic needs are being met, and he often is involved in helping the families’ access health care.

One night a family called him when one of the family members, a young Nepali woman named Man Maya, was suffering from a severe migraine.  Although this young woman was in serious pain, had been losing fluids, and was unable to sleep for days, she refused to go to the hospital because her Medicaid eligibility had expired.  (Adult refugee newcomers are given access to Medicaid, but typically only for a limited time – usually about 8 months.) Man Maya knew that her family could not afford the costs that her condition would accrue; thus, she suffered the pain feeling there were no other options. This poor young woman experienced migraines frequently, and had previously been prescribed a series of medicines to help manage the pain.

When Kendrick arrived at her bedside, all the lights were on, there were several adults carrying on loud conversations in her room, and there were children playing noisily up and down the stairs.  The first thing he did to simply educate the family that many migraine sufferers find that light and sound exacerbates their symptoms. He encouraged them to turn off all the lights in her room and that the family members should hold whispered conversations downstairs. Also, encouraging the children to settle down and find quiet activities to occupy themselves so that no unnecessary noises were made.

After reviewing the young woman’s labeled medicines and working with a reliable interpreter they discovered that she had not been following her prescriptions correctly.  She had been taking a daily medication meant to prevent migraines only after a migraine had begun to start, and she had been taking an acute pain reliever daily to prevent migraines.  Once they contacted a pharmacist to confirm that the labeled instructions were correct, and through the interpreter he was able to correct Man Maya’s medication use. Only minor adjustments were needed.

When Kendrick returned the following morning, he learned that Man Maya was able to sleep for the first time in days and that she was beginning to keep her fluids.  By the following week, she was back at work.

Kendrick has helped many individuals and families at the Hser Ner Moo Welcome Center who have had to deal medical issues such as strokes, heart attacks, seizures, child birth, scabies, severe flu, strep throat, broken arms, and dental pain.

I am so glad that we have an Outreach Specialist like Kendrick who is working with refugee families on a daily basis. He is helping these individuals and families integrate into our community.