Yet despite WeCareJax’s mission, Tatiana says there is still initial apprehension by immigrant patients to engage their services. “For some, it is scary just to walk into a health center because there is a fear of what they can expect. Our very first goal is to make certain that every client that seeks our help understands that we are there to help them find treatment for their health care needs. Unfortunately, for some, the fear of their immigration status being discovered, or the medical services being considered a public charge forces them to choose to remain sick rather than seek medical care.”
Tatiana recounts the plight of one such immigrant client who was living in Duval County. She had become so gravely ill that she was unable to continue working as a housekeeper. Despite her health deteriorating over the course of several years, she never sought medical treatment – feeling forced to live in the shadows of our healthcare system.
“By the time she was referred to WeCareJax and was seeing our specialty provider, she was diagnosed with Stage 4, neuroendocrine cancer. She is now receiving care to treat her condition and continues to care for her two school-age children, who had gone for 10 years without receiving regular pediatric care themselves. If she had not been so fearful of seeking care due to her immigration status, her cancer could have been detected earlier, resulting in a better long-term outcome.”
A point of frustration and heartbreak for Tatiana is knowing that many immigrant residents in the county opt to not seek help because of fear. “We often refer our clients to the University of Florida, which has a fantastic health care program funded by the city of Jacksonville for its indigent residents. However, some individuals - who have concerns about their immigration status - are afraid to utilize the program’s services. They fear that doing so will result in their application for a green card or citizenship being denied.”