The New Orleans Children’s Health Project has always been fully committed to providing care for all children in our community who otherwise lack access to basic primary care. One of the largest pediatric populations in our community that does not have access to primary care is the growing community of immigrant and refugee children. These children have been an important focus of our work over the last ten years, and our dedication to improving their standard of care grows exponentially each year.
Historically, the New Orleans area has had long-standing ties to Honduras and other Central American countries. In the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Hispanic community grew tremendously as many Hispanic adults relocated to this area to help rebuild the city. The Hispanic community has doubled over the last decade as many families have settled in the New Orleans area.
Since 2013, Louisiana, and the Greater New Orleans area in particular, has become a destination for thousands of refugee children from Central America fleeing violent and dangerous conditions in their home countries. Many of these children, known as unaccompanied children, make the journey from their home countries to Louisiana by themselves, seeking reunification with their parents in the New Orleans area. This surge of refugee children is a reflection of the hundreds of thousands of children who have entered the United States just since 2013 looking for refuge from gang violence and economic instability. In 2013, Louisiana was 10th in the nation for the greatest influx of Central American refugee children by state. We also saw the largest increase in our baseline pediatric immigrant community than any other state in the country. This humanitarian crisis has disproportionately affected Louisiana, and we at the New Orleans Children’s Health Project are committed to being the leaders in our state to step up to these challenges and ensure that the medical and social needs of these children are met.
Traumatic exposure to gang violence, family separation, death of loved ones, food insecurity, and homelessness are a few of the common conditions that plague the daily lives of our patients. These children are not eligible for Medicaid health insurance in the state of Louisiana, and we therefore, fight daily battles to try to find sub-specialty medical services for our patients, many of whom have chronic health conditions.
We at the New Orleans Children’s Health project seek to provide a true medical home for these children; a culturally-competent, thorough primary care model that not only provides acute and chronic primary medical care services, but also links these children to legal, educational, sub-specialty and other social services. We use a standardized intake process for all new immigrant children that thoroughly assess the child’s medical, social, legal, education and mental health needs.