This is a guest post by Mackenzie Mann, a former outreach worker with the NC Farmworkers’ Project who also founded our ACA program and directed the program for two years. In 2017, she left to pursue her MSW.
I always reflect fondly upon my time at the NC Farmworkers Project. When I first started working there, we were a team of five; I have loved seeing the organization grow over the years to serve more workers in the area. I learned so much from my coworkers and the farmworkers we served, and have some incredible memories from my outreach days. On my first camp visit with the mobile medical unit, Leonardo brought his guitar and invited the workers to sing and play music. One of the workers started singing, “La Mancha”, with everyone joining in for the chorus. I have an audio recording on my phone that I still listen to when I miss the Farmworkers’ Project community.
I am no longer a staff member at the Farmworkers Project, but am proud to report the organization’s successes from the 2018 year. Reaching over 3000 farmworkers with health services, the staff facilitated 921 medical encounters through its mobile unit and partnership with Benson Area Medical Center. They also coordinated 146 dental visits for farmworker patients. I know how much work and how many resources this accomplishment entails, because outreach workers schedule these appointments and then provide most patients with transportation and interpretation services. That is a lot of time, gas mileage, and lunches on the road!
I always love talking about the Project’s ACA Outreach and Enrollment Program, which, thanks to funding from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, was able to continue developing and improving in 2018. When the Affordable Care Act was implemented in 2014, the law required H-2A workers to enroll in health insurance, apply for an exemption, or otherwise pay a penalty. When the Project’s ACA Program first started in 2015, it focused on the bare basics: getting the word out about the ACA, connecting farmworkers to enrollment assistance, and helping workers stay enrolled in their plans throughout the year.
Looking back on the accomplishments of 2018, it’s clear that the ACA program has surpassed its original expectations. In addition to enrolling 201 H-2A workers in comprehensive health insurance plans, the Program built an entire popular education curriculum around health insurance literacy, which the staff shared at the East Coast Migrant Stream Forum and in a handout produced by the Community Science Foundation. The Program also collaborated with Benson Area Medical Center to coordinate 40 physical appointments for insured farmworkers, leading to the diagnosis of unknown medical conditions, better care management, and more affordable care. The ACA is an incredibly complicated law, so I hope everyone at the Farmworkers’ Project is extra proud of these successes!
Plans for 2019
As we start the 2019 season, I am really excited about some of the Farmworkers Project’s goals for the year. One of them is offering behavioral health appointments to farmworkers on certain clinic nights. The Project has always sought to improve workers’ access to behavioral health services, since research shows that farmworkers are vulnerable to experiencing trauma, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.
Another goal is expanding outreach staffs’ use of popular education. Popular education is at the root of the Farmworkers Project’s founding and mission, and has already been incorporated into much of the staff’s work (such as with the ACA Program). We hope that popular education will contribute to relationships where patients feel more in control of their health. Stay tuned for posts later this year about how outreach workers are incorporating popular education into their health promotion work.
Congratulations to the Farmworkers Project on its incredible achievements in 2018. I can’t wait to see what you accomplish this year!