Latinos in Bushwick Have a New Community Health Center

Tamar López, a patient at the Betances Health Center. (Photo: by Pedro F. Frisneda via El Diario)

Tamar López has been a regular at the Betances Health Center community clinic, located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, all her life. The staff there has helped her stay healthy, physically and mentally.

Her parents – who came from Honduras – have been taking her to the medical center since she was 8 years old. There, she has received everything from pediatric care to reproductive health care to psychological treatments.

“This clinic benefits everyone in the community, but particularly immigrant Latinos, because they have Spanish-speaking doctors available. Some of the doctors don’t just speak the language but come from Latin American countries, so they understand our culture very well and the barriers we face,” said López, 25.

Like her, many other Latinos will have the opportunity to receive this type of quality, low-cost health care in Bushwick, one of the poorest and neediest neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

On Thursday, the Betances Health Center opened a new branch at 1427 Broadway, Bushwick, where they expect to serve some 1,200 patients per year, most of them low-income and uninsured. A large percentage of them come from minority groups. New csu health center branches offer opportunities for those less fortunate, and those less able to travel the oftentimes long distances required previously.

According to the NYC Community Health Profiles 2015 report, 65 percent of the population of Bushwick is of Hispanic origin.

“The most important thing for us is to provide culturally sensitive health care, particularly for the Latino population, as there are not enough health centers really serving this community,” said Julia Tsien, LMSW, chief executive officer of the Betances Health Center.

Tsien explained that the new Bushwick center will focus on tackling the main problems and chronic diseases affecting Latinos, the same way the Lower East Side branch in Manhattan (at 280 Henry St.) has done for 48 years.

“Many of the health issues we see here are similar to those on the Lower East Side, such as diabetes, hypertension, HIV, drug abuse and mental health problems,” said Tsien.

Help for undocumented

(…) One of the main missions of the center will be to provide health care for all patients regardless of their ability to pay, race, ethnicity or immigration status.

The Community Health Profiles 2015 report also stated that 30 percent of all Bushwick residents live under the federal poverty line; unemployment in the area is at 16 percent and the rate of adults without health insurance reaches 29 percent (the third highest in the city).

“We will provide health care to a very diverse community with a great deal of need. Many of the patients are immigrants who are also undocumented,” said Tsien. “We do not ask to see immigration documents. We only ask about their financial situation to assess whether they are eligible to enroll in a health plan if they do not have one yet,” added the center’s director.

As an example of the crucial services offered at the clinic, Tsien mentioned that the Lower East Side center currently serves over 400,000 HIV-positive patients, many of whom do not have insurance or are undocumented.

Among the people in attendance at the new community health center’s inauguration was New York Council member Antonio Reynoso, who represents District 34, to which Bushwick belongs.

The government official, of Dominican descent, also referred to the immense health challenges faced by the area’s residents.

“We have a serious crisis in the African-American and Latino communities when it comes to primary health care. When we look at the figures, African American and Latinos have the least access to quality health care because they have fewer doctors and clinics where they can go. That is why they turn to emergency rooms. This is not the best way to care for your health, particularly mental health,” said Reynoso.

The Betances Health Center in Bushwick will be open Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. To make an appointment, call (347) 390-8701. For more information, visit: www.betances.org.

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