People who were born in many different countries continue to live in our five-county service area that is Thurston, Mason, Lewis, Grays Harbor and Pacific counties–Southwest Washington. Many are Spanish speaking, and some who are from Guatemala, for instance, speak one of two indigenous languages. The children of these families speak Spanish as their second language and learn English when they enroll in school. The families are hardworking and pay local sales taxes, as well as federal and social security taxes. Many of these families are documented citizens, but if undocumented fathers are detained and returned to their country of origin, the mothers and children (who may be citizens if they were born in the United States) remain behind and may become dependent upon the child welfare system in order to survive. Fear of deportation and lack of knowledge of resources deter these families from seeking health care, and may subject citizens to infections such antibiotic resistant tuberculosis and measles.
In the state of Washington today, health care for all low income children is provided through the Apple Health for Kids program (Medicaid). However, low income adults have a much harder time accessing affordable medical coverage. Here in Thurston County we have program that recruits and organizes donated specialty health care resources and connects patients in need to the available services. Since 2007, Thurston County Project Access (TCPA) has managed to provide over $5 million in donated care to under- and uninsured patients in need of acute/urgent care.
Traditionally about one-third of the TCPA clients are Spanish speaking. In addition, TCPA is currently serving clients from Portugal, the Philippines and Africa. This type of specialty program may be the medical care of the future for people living in our country who have been excluded from health care reform coverage expansions.