This is a local issue, but it caught my attention because obviously this county government, Washtenaw County where Ann Arbor is located, isn’t even fully aware that refugees are being resettled in their county—until now anyway. A Michigan state office and a resettlement agency want the county to take on refugee health screening and the state is offering a measly $7,800 as payment for what is going to amount to ultimately tens of thousands of dollars in expenses.
Just ask the Allen County Health Department located in Ft. Wayne, IN how much all this will cost in the end! Seriously, County Commissioners, call Ft. Wayne!
Here is the full story from the Ann Arbor Chronicle:
Commissioners voiced several concerns over a new refugee health program, funded with $7,800 from the state Dept. of Community Health’s Office of Refugee Services. The program would pay for health screenings at the county health department’s clinic at 555 Towner St. in Ypsilanti.
In briefing the commissioners, Joanna Bidlack of the county administrator’s office reported that about 50-100 refugees settle in Washtenaw County each year, primarily in the Ypsilanti area. Currently they get health screenings from a clinic in Dearborn. The county was approached about this program by the state and the Jewish Family Services nonprofit, which serves as a refugee resettlement agency.
According to a cover memo on the resolution, the proposed medical screenings are designed to identify people with communicable diseases, or whose health conditions may impact resettlement – by affecting their ability to get a job or attend school, for example. The screenings would also identify conditions that might be grounds for exclusion (affecting their refugee status) or that would be significant enough to alert authorities at the relevant consulate.
The county health department currently provides some services to refugees – including tuberculosis screening and immunizations – without reimbursement.
In discussing the program, Wes Prater asked if these refugees are illegal immigrants. “I think we need to know if they’re illegals,” he said. Ken Schwartz said the status of “refugee” was a legal designation. His concern was whether they’d be bringing communicable diseases into the county.
Barbara Bergman raised another issue – if the screenings turned up a medical condition that needed treatment, then what? Who would pay for treatment?
Bidlack said she’d follow up, prior to their March 3 meeting, on the issues raised by commissioners.
The Commissioners have some good questions, but again I am struck by the fact that resettlement is going on in their county and they have apparently not been briefed (as required by law!) by the State refugee coordinator about what refugee resettlement means for them—costs of medical care, welfare payments, school expenses and the list goes on. We had the same problem in the county where Judy and I live—the local government had no idea in 2007 what refugee resettlement meant for the community.
I’ll bet the supposed “reform” of the refugee program going on at the White House isn’t addressing the transparency issue for local governments.