Needs Assessment Committee Meeting January 11, 2024

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Members Present: Emma Kaywin (Co-chair), Marcy Thompson (Co-chair), David Klotz (Governmental – chair), John Schoepp, Steven Wilcox, Marcy Sedlacek, David Martin, Arthur Fitting, Fay Barrett, Billy Fields, Marcelo Maia-Soares, Raffi Babakhanian, Vanessa Decamps, Rasheed Ford, Reginald Brown, Alan Peralta, Claire Simon

DOHMH, PHS, NYS, CHAIN, and Other Staff Present: Doienne Saab, Kimbirly Mack, Sara Kramer, Monika Pathak, Johanna Acosta, Luis Valle, Connor Reynolds, Maiko Yomogida, Nadine Alexander, Lily Ha, Amanda Lugg

Agenda Item #1: Moment of Silence/Minutes:

Emma K. opened the meeting with introductions and an icebreaker. John S. led the moment of silence.

Agenda Item #2: Guest Presentations – Immigrant Health/Asylum Seeker Communities of NYC  

2a. The Policy Landscape and Coordination of Asylum Seeker Services in NYC Monika Pathak (Senior Policy Advisor – NYC DOHMH Bureau of Hepatitis, HIV and STIs) provided an overview of the City/State/Federal policy landscape impacting the influx of asylum seekers arriving in New York City since Spring 2022.  She discussed the current state of the City’s Right to Shelter law, the suspension of minimum shelter requirements, and the end of Title 42. Monika also highlighted the creation of the Office of Asylum Seeker Operations and the establishment of new temporary housing sites. She then outlined the current process for asylum seekers upon arrival, which includes screening and transfer to available City-operated sites. Monika emphasized the efforts being made to provide care to asylum seekers, including health insurance enrollment, mental health support, and connections to the healthcare system. The discussion concluded with the current a future needs of asylum seekers, including free to low-cost legal services and stable housing. Several expressed an interest in learning about the accessibility and availability of HIV testing services in NYC for asylum seekers since it is not a service provided at any of the City-operated sites. David K. suggested inviting or getting a written update from Ben Tsoi, of the HIV Prevention Program at NYC DOHMH, to get a broader perspective on the HIV testing landscape. Monika P. will also reach out to the NYC DOHMH Sexual Health Clinics to ask about their response to the increase in asylum seekers.   Luis Valle (Director of Language Programs – NYC DOHMH) discussed the language interpretation resources through their program and emphasized the need for diverse translation services for indigenous languages from South America and West Africa,  particularly for Quichua, Wolof, and Fulani-native speakers. He shared that their program is working with agencies to provide interpreters in these languages.  2b. Themes and Goals for Informing NAC Recommendations Doienne S. shared a draft of themes from the November to December NAC meetings on immigrant and asylum seeker health. She also reviewed the overarching goals that were informed by the goals. As a next step, each of the goals will inform a set of recommendations to improve and expand immigrant and asylum seeker access to RWPA services. The following themes and goals were discussed: Language Barriers: Doienne S. presented the compiled themes for language barriers and their associated, overarching goal: To strengthen RWPA provider capacity to provide high-quality, diverse, and linguistically affirming language interpretation services, in the languages spoken by newly arrived immigrants being served in the NY EMA.  The committee discussed the importance of ensuring that resources are accessible and linguistically affirming to serve the diverse language needs of the newly arrived immigrants. Billy F. suggested looking to the United Nations (UN) for interpreters and reaching out to relevant immigrant communities within the City for language access support. Doienne S. mentioned that the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) is conducting a survey to gather information on language access needs of providers and recommended members to share the survey widely. Marcelo M. suggested using telecommunication platforms like Skype, Zoom, and WhatsApp to connect clients to language interpretation services to fill in gaps for interpreters when providers lack the capacity. He also suggested that connecting clients to English as a second language classes and the ballroom community could mitigate communication and social isolation barriers faced by migrants. The Cmte. asked the Recipient to share information on the available resources provided by the NYC DOHMH’s Language Access Program to Sub-recipients for their awareness.       Service Demand Increase and Navigation Barriers Doienne S. presented the compiled themes for service demand increase and its overarching, associated goal: To help RWPA providers accommodate and manage the increase in service needs of newly arrived clients while continuing to serve existing clients effectively and help them mitigate health care and social support navigation challenges. Doienne highlighted the challenges faced in managing the increased demand for services due to resource and funding limitations. The Cmte. discussed the vulnerability faced by newly arrived immigrant clients and the need for effective navigation strategies to mitigate those barriers. Amanda L. mentioned that African Services Committee is starting a new peer program that matches existing immigrant clients with newly arrived immigrants for six months. The program aims to provide newly arrived immigrants with mentorship, advice, and support to navigate the challenging barriers to essential services. Mental Health Concerns – Client Level Doienne S. presented the compiled themes for mental health concerns (client level) and its overarching, associated goal: To address the mental health concerns and the high level of trauma among newly arrived immigrant clients using an affirming, culturally responsive and client-centered approach; to equip staff with the appropriate tools to address mental health concerns. Mental Health – Staff Level Doienne S. presented the compiled themes for mental health concerns (staff level) and its overarching, associated goal: To build staff resiliency to enhance psychological wellness in the workplace. LGBTQ+ Asylum Seekers Needing Health and Support Services Doienne S. presented the compiled themes for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers needing health and support services themes and its overarching, associated goal: To provide the guidance and resources to help providers with treating LGBTQ+ clients with sensitivity and competence to appropriately meet their needs in an affirming manner. The Cmte. emphasized that LGBTQ+ services for asylum seekers must be safe and confidential to ensure accessibility for this community. The Cmte. asked Doienne S. to reach out to Legal Aid Society and to LGBTQ+ led organizations to inform best practices for this community. Stakeholder Engagement and Community Engagement Doienne S. presented the compiled themes  stakeholder engagement and community engagement and its overarching, associated goal: To build the capacity of RWPA providers to better health and social services access. The Cmte.  highlighted the importance of information sharing and being aware of how other jurisdictions are managing and responding to the asylum seeker crisis for adopting best practices. 
Doienne S. informed members that the feedback gathered at this meeting will be used to draft a final set of recommendations to improve and expand immigrant and asylum seeker access to RWPA services. The recommendations will be discussed and finalized at the next NAC meeting in February. Agenda Item #3: Announcements   Doienne S. shared information on two upcoming NYC DOHMH-hosted webinars on asylum seeker and immigrant health. There being no further discussion, the meeting was adjourned.