June 19, 2019
When a child walks into one of our clinics, we treat them regardless of their ability to pay or their immigration status. We believe ALL children deserve access to comprehensive healthcare. It is good for the child, it is good for our country and our future. For those of us dedicated to standing up for vulnerable children, the wellbeing of these immigrant families has been of great concern, underscored by the death of several immigrant children in ICE custody in the past year.
With the administration’s recent announcement of mass immigrant deportations, doctors like Mukerjee are bracing themselves. Last year, she started to see children who were literally ripped from their parents’ arms by ICE agents. The psychological impact has been devastating for these children, and their families.
Dr. Kim Mukerjee is the tireless medical director of our New Orleans Children’s Health Project (NOCHP) which is responding to the massive demand and dire need of immigrant families flooding the city. She was recently honored with the Irwin Redlener Award for Innovation and Advocacy for embodying the spirit and mission of Children’s Health Fund.
Through the advocacy of many in the medical field and others, there is continued pressure to make reforms and ensure children and families are treated humanely. However, we know the medical needs of these children don’t end once they move past the border and into different parts of the country to rebuild their lives. We know because many of Children’s Health Fund’s doctors are on the front lines of this crisis beyond the border in places like New Orleans.
Established in response to Hurricane Katrina, NOCHP has extensive experience working with families in crisis. But the face of this crisis is like nothing they’ve experienced before. Families have profound needs and are eligible for very little assistance from our government. These are uninsured children, many who are practically homeless and don’t know where their next meal will come from. Worse yet, many children face serious medical challenges and their mothers are survivors of horrendous violence.
Dr. Mukerjee knows these immigrants are seeking refuge in every sense of the word. Because of this, her team has changed the way it practices primary care.
On the first visit, a family’s intake process takes hours because, in addition to the check-up, Dr. Mukerjee uses a survey she pioneered that gets at understanding the fuller history of patients. With a caseworker, they are able to address critical needs around housing, food, and mental health, to name a few, that are essential for families to have a fair chance at starting over in this country. Through their advocacy, children who need urgent specialty medical services and surgeries, get them.
In a state with some of the worst health disparities for children in the nation and limited access to healthcare for all children, these and other children living in poverty would fall completely through the cracks without allies like NOCHP. Dr. Mukerjee emphasizes, “There are countless families who, without our health services, would have no access to healthcare.”
It will likely continue to get worse before it gets better, but there is no doubt of the necessity of doctors like Kim Mukerjee and the lifesaving work they are doing across the country.
We need your help to be there for these children as they face even more challenges in their difficult journey to be safe, healthy and have a better future.