News Release
   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
   July 19, 2001

Christine Grant

For Further Information Contact:
Laura Otterbourg


New Jersey Awarded Refugee Settlement Funding

TRENTON -- The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services has been awarded $262,000 in funding for its Refugee Health Program from the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Settlement - a 65 percent funding increase over previous years.

The Refugee Health Program ensures that all newly arriving refugees complete a domestic health screening within 90 days of arrival to evaluate each person's current physical and mental health needs and protect United States public health. The funding covers the current fiscal year, July 1, 2001 through June 30, 2002.

"For the last four years, the average number of refugees resettling in New Jersey numbered about 1,600 per year - with only about 37 percent completing the required health exam within 90 days of their arrival," said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Christine Grant. "The department's goal is to raise the percentage of refugees examined in this time frame up to 65 percent - and this additional funding should help us get there."

Refugees from Africa, East Asia, the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East account for more than half the refugees arriving in New Jersey each year.

The state's Refugee Health Program, which began in 1980, evaluates refugees for a possible parasitic infection like malaria as well as tuberculosis. And the screening may identify those individuals with treatable non-infectious health conditions ranging from poor nutrition, lead poisoning and asthma to hypertension, sickle cell anemia and depression.

"This health screening is important not only for the health and well-being of these new arrivals in New Jersey but also to safeguard the health of all current residents - looking at each situation from the public health standpoint," said state epidemiologist and assistant commissioner Dr. Eddy Bresnitz. "We want to know if a person has a communicable disease of public health significance or a health condition that could have an adverse impact on resettlement here, or in the rest of the nation."

New Jersey's program will now be able to provide initiatives to help raise compliance with the goals of the Refugee Health Program, from providing health service grants at various sites around the state to offering foreign language interpreters to helping refugees understand the local system, and increasing medical case management.

Refugees arriving in New Jersey often find it difficult to navigate through the health care system because they are faced with cultural and linguistic barriers. As a result, they are unable to meet the federal and state requirement of completing a domestic health exam.

"While refugees are screened overseas for medical conditions that would exclude them from our country, these tests can be inaccurate and do not always cover all of the conditions that concern our public health," said Dr. Bresnitz. "And there is sometimes a time delay from when the refugee was tested and when that person arrives in the U.S."

Six of the 12 Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) sites in New Jersey - where many refugees receive their health care - will $10,000 each in funding to help alleviate administrative costs and provide domestic health screening services.

The sites were selected based on the numbers of refugees identified in the FQHC service area. They are: Henry J. Austin Health Center, Trenton; Plainfield Health Center; Newark Community Health Centers; CamCare Health Corp., Camden; North Hudson Community Health Center, West New York; and Paterson Community Health Center.

The Refugee Health Program will also be able to use an interpreter and translating service with access to professionally trained interpreters who are fluent in over 50 languages. Their services range from helping a refugee schedule a medical appointment to eliminating language barriers that may prevent proper medical care.

A refugee is a person who has fled his or her country because of a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, social group, or political opinion. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the world refugee population in 2000 was estimated to be 14.5 million. Refugees are of every race and religion and can be found in every part of the world. Refugees reflect the measurement of the world's political and social problems.

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