Ventanilla de Salud and Migrant Clinicians Network’s New Partnership
When Mexican nationals living in Texas need to visit the Mexican Consulate in Austin -- looking to handle documentation concerns like updating a passport, getting copies of documentation, or applying for a student visa, for example -- they can expect a lengthy line while they wait for their turn at the window. The Consulate takes advantage of this wait period to offer information and resources to Mexican citizens. On a recent Thursday, Migrant Clinicians Network’s Leslie Diaz hosted community partner DevyIn Optical, which provided free eye exams and fitted Consulate visitors with made-on-the-spot glasses at deep discounts. Hosting such partners is just one of Diaz’s tasks as a Health Network Associate in the Consulate as part of a new partnership with Austin’s Ventanilla de Salud, a program designed to help Mexican nationals living in the US find and access health care services at 55 consulates throughout the United States. Unlike our other Health Network Associates who are located in our Austin office, Diaz provides critical health information and resources to the often hard-to-reach local Latino community at the Consulate itself.
“The searching and the connections that the Health Network team are making via internet and phone [for clients moving around the world] -- we’re doing that here for people locally in Austin,” Diaz explained. Diaz provides visitors who have chronic health issues like diabetes, obesity, and heart disease with needed bilingual, bicultural health care education and resources in their own communities, and helps them with critical health care linkages to assure they can establish a medical home and access the health services they need. She also brings community partners to the Consulate to form those health linkages immediately.
The partnership with the Ventanilla in Austin is ongoing, supported by the Institute for Mexicans Abroad (Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior, or IME). Diaz believes the partnership provides substantial opportunity to better reach out to Latinos in Travis County and the surrounding 22 counties that the Austin Consulate serves. “There are about 100 to 200 people who walk in the door every day,” Diaz noted, and many of them lack access to health services and often don’t know what services are available. Some are residents who have recently moved out of Austin, as development and gentrification pushes lower-income residents to the suburbs; others may have a child that has aged out of state-sponsored health care and needs to find the child a new affordable provider. Diaz also works closely with community partners. “I do lots of outreach with other agencies and with health centers” to best understand what’s available and to keep the community well connected, “so I keep up with the people who are walking into the Consulate, and also with the community partners who serve them,” Diaz explained. Through these community connections, Ventanilla de Salud hosts health fairs and stand-alone community partners to get more services directly to Consulate visitors.
“It’s all about getting people to the resources that are in the community,” Diaz explained.