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Immigrant Health

The REACH Foundation has maintained a focus on reducing the coverage gap for medically underserved populations in the REACH service area, which includes the health care needs of immigrants and refugees.

The majority of this work and the associated grants fall within the Close the Coverage Gap outcome investment area. A strategy within this outcome area is “partnerships to identify, research, test and engage voters and policymakers regarding health coverage and population health.” Two grants awarded in 2018 are using partnerships to establish a welcoming center and a collaborative process for promoting a healthy and welcoming Kansas City region.

Longtime REACH partner El Centro, Inc. was awarded a two-year, $173,332 grant to roll out a plan for repositioning the agency as a Welcoming Center for Latino Immigrants. Chief Program Officer Erica Andrade said the idea for the project grew out of staff members’ interest in expanding the agency’s vision for integrated service delivery to become a recognized “welcome center” for Latino families in Johnson and Wyandotte counties.

El Centro has always strived to be a trusted resource for Latino residents. However, as the Latino population has continued to grow so has the demand for culturally and linguistically appropriate assistance. Andrade said the team at El Centro studied the unmet needs of its clients and opportunities to expand its presence in the two counties. Staff agreed that one of the first steps in shifting to a more integrated service approach was to eliminate silos among their individual programs and adopt a holistic client service approach that better matches the concept of a Welcoming Center.

“For example, when a client comes to us for eye glasses, we ask about insurance status so that we can help our clients enroll in coverage and find a medical home,” Andrade said. “We may learn about money worries or language or literacy challenges that are holding back our clients, and can connect them to our financial literacy programs, emergency assistance and other services.”

To carry the vision further, staff also gave the Kansas City, KS, office a refresh with brighter paint colors, artwork and furnishings that are representative of their clients’ culture. Andrade said the new décor creates a more positive, and empowering, tone.

The second phase of the project involves implementation of a communications and branding campaign to reintroduce the well-known agency to the Latino community and local government, schools and other collaborators as a Welcoming Center. Communications materials and outreach activities will reposition El Centro as a leading resource for serving the Latino community. Andrade said the goal is to give El Centro a more prominent platform for advocating for the needs of their target population, so that adults and families are better equipped to be successful in work and life in the Kansas City region.

To broaden understanding and spur action around the principles of a welcoming community, REACH awarded a $76,000 grant to Welcoming America to work with Kansas City area nonprofit and civic groups to develop a welcome plan for the region. A national organization, Welcoming America has worked with local governments and nonprofit organizations in more than 500 communities around the U.S. to create comprehensive agendas and action plans for integrating immigrant and refugee community members into the social, economic and civic fabric of communities.

Pre-planning for the Kansas City regional effort is being spearheaded by grantee partners, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and Vibrant Health Wyandotte, along with the REACH Foundation. Through the grant, Welcoming America provides facilitation, planning tools and guidance on welcoming practices and policies that promote inclusion.

To carry the vision further, staff also gave the Kansas City, KS, office a refresh with brighter paint colors, artwork and furnishings that are representative of their clients’ culture.

The Welcoming Plan project will launch midyear 2019 involving a 25-member steering committee that will construct the framework for the planning process and identify additional community leaders to involve. Activities will focus on gaining understanding of the region’s immigrant and refugee populations, current existing support systems and opportunities to leverage human talent, funding and policy change.

“Welcoming America brings experience and best practices for how communities can establish a welcoming environment,” said Carla Gibson, senior program officer at REACH. “The planning process will involve leaders from across sectors and counties – setting the stage for building a more inclusive bi-state region.”

The planning process will run through 2019 with a final plan ready for release in 2020.