On Thursday, the Health Dept. of Allen County, Indiana, which includes Ft. Wayne held an important meeting to assess the challenge the Department is facing with a large influx of Burmese refugees. The most pressing issue is where to find the funds to head off potential health risks to the entire community. Here are some facts according to the News-Sentinal:
Nearly $190,000 in additional funds will be needed to meet the health care needs of refugees coming to Fort Wayne, Department of Health Administrator Mindy Waldron said Thursday at a special meeting of the Board of Health.
Indiana law requires local health departments to evaluate and treat refugees within 30 days of their arrival.
Adding staff hours for the Infectious Disease Clinic is the largest need next year. Waldron outlined needs for staff and work hours to the board, calculating 183 more hours per week for medical and administrative staff — at a cost of nearly $160,000 — will be needed.
Forty percent of Burmese refugees in Fort Wayne have noncontagious latent TB, McMahan said. If not tracked and treated, 10 to 15 percent will develop active TB. Treatment is expensive, requiring daily medications for months by a trained individual at the person’s home or workplace.
But in spite of the challenges, Ft Wayne says they are ready for more refugees:
Steensma [Health Dept. Board Member] asked the public to welcome the refugees. “It’s a burden to this department,” he said, “but it’s not a burden to the community.”
The Journal-Gazette story echoes this same theme:
In an average year, 100 to 200 Burmese refugees settle in Allen County, she [Catholic Charities representative] said. But secondary migration from other settlement communities accounts for an even greater portion of the Burmese population in Fort Wayne. Overall, the city is home to 3,000 to 3,500 Burmese people, one of the largest Burmese populations in the U.S.
In the meantime, board members said it was important that Burmese refugees are welcomed with open arms into the community.
Bottomline, it is up to the community. Some cities, counties and whole states have decided they cannot handle the burden of large numbers of refugees and that choice must be respected. If Ft. Wayne and Allen County residents are all for resettling large numbers of refugees and attracting others through secondary migration, then that too is a choice we can’t argue with.