Fresno Advocates Urge Supervisors To Take Action, Provide Health Care For Undocumented

Mar 24, 2015

Health advocates rallied in downtown Fresno urging the board of supervisors to take action in an effort to provide access to specialty care for unauthorized immigrants.
Credit Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio

It’s been over three months since undocumented residents in Fresno County lost access to a program that provided specialty health care. As FM89’s Diana Aguilera explains, local health advocates rallied Tuesday to support its return.

The Fresno County Board of Supervisors was expected to vote on an agreement with a local company that would have restored at least some access to specialty care for undocumented residents. Instead the board postponed the discussion.

"My husband has a heart disease he needs to seek services with a cardiologist, that's specialty care so it's been really hard on us." -Maria, Fresno County resident.

Still,  health advocates like Socorro Santillan with Fresno Barrios Unidos gathered outside the Hall of Records to urge the board to take action. She said farm workers and other undocumented residents can’t wait any longer.  

“Unlike today when the meeting was postponed they can’t postpone being sick,” Santillan says.

That’s the case of one woman at the rally - Maria. She asked that we not share her last name due to her immigration status. Maria and her husband were among those who lost access to the program.

“My husband has a heart disease he needs to seek services with a cardiologist that’s specialty care so it’s been really hard on us," she says. 

Maria, of Fresno, says these past few months without access to specialists have been really tough for her family.
Credit Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio

Last year, the board of supervisors voted to exclude unauthorized immigrants from a program that had provided them health care for decades. The county said it was losing the funding that made the program possible due to the Affordable Care Act. Then in December they voted to start a new program to provide more limited specialty care for undocumented residents, thanks to $5.5 million in state funding.

The county is expected to debate how to implement the new program on April 7.