Providing Migrant Workers With Healthcare is Important

Agriculture is a vital component of the New York State economy. Over one quarter of the total acreage in New York is used for agricultural purposes (NYS, 2011), with sales exceeding $4.5 billion annually in NYS. The need for a healthy stable workforce remains a critical aspect of this segment of the economy. Due to the seasonal nature of farming, it is important that there is a reliable source of healthy workers. In order to attract and maintain that important workforce, growers and producers rely heavily on migrant and seasonal farmworkers who come to NYS to work in a variety of roles to support the farming industry.

For our farms to thrive and succeed, it is essential that there is access to affordable, comprehensive health care for the workers and their families. A healthy worker will be a productive partner and an asset for the farm. Workers require access to preventive care, chronic disease management, and acute and emergency care. In New York State, there are 52 Community Health Centers (CHC) with over 537 delivery sites that provide comprehensive health services for all in the communities they serve, offering culturally appropriate, high quality care with accessible hours available.

One of the important facts to know about Community Health Centers is that they are able to provide services regardless of whether a patient has health insurance or not. All CHC’s are mandated to have a sliding fee scale in place for all patients and offer affordable care. Three of the 52 Community Health Center programs in NYS receive additional support from the federal government to provide enhanced healthcare services specifically for migrant and seasonal farmworkers. Those health centers programs that provide added services for farmworkers are Oak Orchard Health, west of Rochester, Finger Lakes Community Health in the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier regions, and Hudson River HealthCare in the Hudson Valley and parts of LongIsland. These Community/ Migrant Health Centers use the additional funding to provide case management, transportation, interpretation, and patient advocacy to those farmworkers eligible under the federal definition of a migrant or seasonal farmworker. In addition, 2 of the Migrant Health Centers, Finger Lakes C o m m u n i t y Health and Hudson River HealthCare are each designated as Migrant Voucher Programs (MVP). Migrant Voucher Programs provide comprehensive care in which contractual agreements are created with healthcare providers to serve farmworkers in rural areaaaas that do not have a Community/Migrant Health Center nearby. This arrangements extends the same healthcare services to farmworkers that they could receive at a Community Health Center site.

In order to locate a Community Health Center nearby, the federal government has a website (www. findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov) (HRSA, 2013) that can find the nearest health center to the user. Information generated will include a health center’s website address, phone numbers and a map of where they are located. Community/Migrant Health Centers provide access to quality, affordable health care services so that workers have the ability to access preventive medicine and other healthcare services to ensure that they are healthy and able to provide the agricultural community with a stable and vibrant workforce.

References:
HRSA. (2013). HRSA. Retrieved from Primary Care: The Health Center Program: http:// findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/ Search, HCC.aspx

NCFH. (2011). Farmworker Population Estimation by State. Buda, TX.
NYS. (2011). The Role of Agriculture in the NYS

Mary Zelazny
CEO, Finger Lakes Community Health

This article is reproduced from Grassroots, August 2013, published by the New York Farm Bureau.