The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights recently announced the launch of its Immigrant Health Academy. The initiative’s goal is to train community leaders in Cook, Will, DuPage, and Lake Counties in areas with high immigrant populations to inform immigrants about their health care rights and correct misconceptions about access to care.
Jose Vera, executive director of the ICIRR partner organization Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project, says ensuring immigrant communities understand their rights to health care is especially critical as residents are still navigating the COVID pandemic.
“During the pandemic, it became much more evident that this was such a huge need, especially as many of our families were interacting with hospitals,” said Vera. “Our hope is that when folks show up at a hospital or when they’re seeking health care in general, they know what their top rights are, and that includes getting access to someone that speaks the language you feel comfortable with, knowing that if you’re seeking assistance at the hospital, that you have the right to getting financial assistance after the fact, and just basic information like that that might be very common for some of us but not for all of us.”
Vera says that the initiative, which ICIRR describes as the first of its kind in the nation, can serve as a road map for other communities.
“We do hope other cities replicate some of this because we believe health care is a human right so everybody needs access to it.”