The REACH Foundation’s current five-year strategic plan calls for increasing access to health care coverage and care with particular emphasis on the health needs of specific vulnerable populations – which include immigrants and refugees living within the foundation’s six-county service area. To build our understanding of the disparities and barriers that influence health for these populations, the REACH Foundation invited a group of community and organization leaders with first-hand knowledge and experience in working with immigrants and refugees in the Kansas City metro area to share their best practices for building trust and providing culturally responsive services to these groups.

Their insights, along with information gathered from consumer focus groups, provided the foundation direction for ways to improve access to health care for these populations. Themes that emerged from the conversations included fear, mistrust and confusion about health systems, insurance and fees, particularly among undocumented immigrant. Other concerns included lack of information on where to go for health care and specialty care; cultural competency of health providers and the quality of interpreters; and need for culturally competent behavioral health services. These insights and recommendations were highlighted in a summary report, “Immigrant Health Report: Barriers to Health Care for Immigrant and Refugee Populations.”

REACH awarded grants totaling $160,000 to three organizations to support improved coverage and care for immigrants and refugees.

As a follow up to those conversations, foundation staff worked with health advisors to organize a three-session summer workshop series. The series examined legal rights and concerns; tools for establishing “welcoming communities;” and delivery of culturally competent behavioral health services. Following these events, the foundation awarded grants totaling $160,000 to projects designed to strengthen cultural competency and improve access to health care:

• A $50,000 grant to Children’s Mercy Hospital for development and testing of a bilingual behavioral health coaching model to increase the capacity for Spanish-language behavioral health services in the Kansas City metro area. The project is designed to increase the quality of communication and care provided by bilingual behavioral health providers to Spanish-speaking clients.

• A $70,000 grant to the JUNTOS Center for Advancing Latino Health at the University of Kansas Medical Center to support research and publication of a profile of insurance coverage and health care access for Latinos and other immigrants in the metro area. The project will be conducted in partnership with the Migration Policy Institute and draw on demographic and focus group and survey data to analyze issues that affect health care access and utilization. The report will be released in 2018.

• A $40,000 grant to Turner House Children’s Clinic (now known as Vibrant Health Wyandotte Neighborhood Clinics) in Kansas City, KS, to coordinate a new learning community and advocacy network for health and social service organizations engaged in the care of immigrants and refugees. The learning network, Communities Concerned for Immigrants & Refugees, is open to local organizations working with these populations. The first round of convenings will launch in summer 2018.