By Vivian Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
With President Barack Obama’s recent economic stimulus package on its way to the States, many local agencies are eagerly awaiting its distribution to nonprofit organizations, and the International Community Health Services (ICHS) Foundation is no exception.
As the largest Asian and Pacific Islander (API) community health center in the state, ICHS offers a full range of health services to uninsured and underserved patients limited by their language barriers and income.
ICHS CEO Teresita Batayola has witnessed how the economy has affected the center’s clients. Patients typically have a sliding fee scale, with a minimum of a $15 co-payment for health services. However, Batayola observed that in the past few months patients are frequently registering to waive their co-pay due to their inability to keep up with payments.
“People don’t understand the value of maintaining health coverage,” said Batayola. “In times like these, our patients often find themselves having to choose what they can and cannot afford when it comes to survival.”
Patients sacrificing health care for basic needs such as rent and food have become a growing trend among ICHS’s clientele.
In order to protect the best interests team. In addition to race, it will address issues regarding sexuality, gender, class, disability, and of the clinic, ICHS has issued recent layoffs and introduced furloughs to cut back on costs. Despite changes, Batayola insisted that the staff continues to meet the needs of its clients.
“The staff understands how bad the economic situation is, and they’re passionate about maintaining services for our clients,” she said. “Even though we’re understaffed, we still uphold regular clinic hours to meet with patients to establish normalcy.”
This desire to maintain normalcy can also be found at the Center for Career Alternatives (CCA), where multiethnic, disadvantaged youth and adults can seek no-cost education, employment, and career development services.
Alan Sugiyama, CCA Executive Director, said that the center has downsized 20 percent of its staff within the last seven months. However, the layoffs have not diminished the center’s efficiency or morale.
“[It] has been really tough on the staff, but many are doing the job of two people, and everyone has been pitching in to cover what needs to be done. Everyone is concerned, but we’re hoping that in the next year we’ll have the funding to get staffing back. … Our goals haven’t gone down — just our staff.”
Sugiyama expressed that clients are bearing the strain of these times. “Our clients are sharing or cutting costs to help weather the storm. Many of them have had to move out of their places and into the homes of friends and families to help support themselves.”
Funding has also been a concern. “All of the nonprofits are suffering just like every citizen,” said Sugiyama. “Our revenues are down, our grants are down, and all the community-based agencies must be aggressive about fundraising.”
Other agencies have had more luck staying afloat. The Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA), a multiethnic organization that provides refugee and immigrant women and families with culturally appropriate services, oversees a unique way of preserving resources.
“For the past eight years, we have tried hard to diversify our funds,” said Someireh Amirfaiz, ReWA’s executive director. “[Since] some of our funding will be cut by the end of the summer, we’re definitely feeling the impact [of the economy], but we’re still making sure that we’re secure and that there’s no gap in our services. We strive to catch our clients and provide a safety net by having an alternative, go-to source for funding.”
Although all three organizations expressed concerns for the upcoming fiscal year, there is optimism for 2011. “The stimulus package has to trickle down into the states, counties, and then the nonprofits,” said Sugiyama. “My biggest fear is that it’ll stay with state agencies. We’re just hoping that it’ll jump-start the economy and finally open up things on our side.”
Batayola also highlighted that Seattle’s API community is unique, as the relationships between organizations are strong, collaborative, and reciprocal.
“There are good communicative portals within Seattle’s [API] community,” said Batayola. “There is a lot of understanding and mutual support during these times.”
“We’re all in this together,” agreed Sugiyama. “And to get out of it, we’re going to have to stick together and get out of it together.” ♦
Vivian Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.