SAN DIEGO - The Alliance Healthcare Foundation (AHF) announced January 7 via a news release, its intention to make a dedicated effort to assist in the resolution of emerging public health needs related to the influx of border asylum seekers, refugees and migrants.

“In recognition of the emerging public health needs associated with the surge of border refugees and immigrants to the region, and owing to the need and time sensitivity of this issue, we have resolved to engage—convene, advocate, and fund—to preserve and improve the public health and personal welfare of San Diego and Imperial Valley residents as it relates to migrants seeking asylum in the U.S.,” said Elizabeth Dreicer, the foundation’s interim executive director, in the news release.

According to Dr. Joe Ramsdell and interim board chair, “The recent influx of migrants in San Diego and Imperial counties presents an acute and important challenge combining humanitarian concerns for the chronic and acute healthcare problems of migrants and public health concerns for screening and identifying potential communicable diseases in the San Diego and Imperial Valley communities. The Alliance Healthcare Foundation is committed to supporting those agencies dedicated to providing humane care and achieving these public health aims. This is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do if we are to effectively step up to our traditional responsibilities of identifying and controlling communicable disease and reducing human suffering while mitigating the risk of unnecessary stress on the region’s emergency and other healthcare services for care of chronic and preventable medical conditions in these individuals.”

While much attention has been placed on the caravan, there are always migrants seeking asylum who are being processed, the release stated. The difference is the current infrastructure is not set up for the surge volume of approximately 100 people per day.

Many are in poor health or have weakened immune systems brought on by their long journey, which has often involved sleeping outside. Asylum seekers suffer from the same communicable diseases all people suffer from, like the flu, colds and respiratory infections, which require rest and recuperative environments to heal, the release claimed.

Migrants need temporary shelter and healthcare until they can move on to  permanent living arrangements, the release said. AHF has been in talks with the Office of Mayor Kevin Faulconer, the County of San Diego’s Health and Human Services Department, the State of California’s Office of Emergency Planning, and a host of organizations and funders actively working on the issue as the Foundation determines how to best support a strategy that maximizes the overall public health and the personal welfare of migrants, said the release.

“It is going to take all of us—government agencies, non-profit organizations and philanthropic partners—working in collaboration to develop a long-term strategy,” said San Diego Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer in the news release. “The City of San Diego is committed to continuing to work with all stakeholders involved to ensure that the needs of these individuals are being addressed as quickly and humanely as possible.”

”The health and well-being of the public, including families seeking asylum, is our utmost priority,” said Nick Macchione, director of the County of San Diego’s Health and Human Services Agency, in the release. “The work of the local community-based organizations who have stepped up to respond to this evolving situation, taking care of the immediate needs of vulnerable migrant families with children and helping to protect the health of our entire region, has been a critical part of this response. With no end in sight, it is becoming more and more important for partners to collaborate managing this new reality.”

AHF said its approach will focus on investments that will result in improved health and stable operations.

“It’s clear that a number of organizations, agencies, funders and individuals are concerned and working hard on this issue, often on a volunteer basis,” Dreicer said. “Yet shelter operations need to be stabilized, government must participate, and it is vitally important that the strategy includes a coordinating function to take full advantage of the multiple governmental and charitable (foundation, corporate and individual) resources available.”

The healthcare services needed range from obtaining a diagnosis, to receiving medicine in a timely manner, to prenatal care for pregnant women. Doctors also need to make sure migrants can safely travel and continue their recovery prior to leaving the shelter, the release noted.

“In addition to running and supporting our other long-established programs supporting vulnerable individuals and families in our region, we will continue to convene, and hold talks with the many stakeholders in our region to support the development of a strategy that overcomes the current obstacles to achieve a humane solution to the public health and migrant welfare issue we face,” said Dreicer in the news release.

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