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SEAHEC Migrant Health efforts & impact grow: with funding from CDC Foundation and Pima County Health Department

With the growing number of migrant and asylum seekers arriving at the U.S. Mexico border in recent years, SEAHEC and its close partners Casa Alitas / Catholic Community Services in Tucson AZ, conceptualized a local and sustainable response to meeting migrant health needs in our border region. Utilizing funds made available through the American Recovery Act, SEAHEC received, funding from the CDC Foundation for our “Vacunas Para Todos” initiative, to educate asylum seeking families about COVID 19, and provide resources and referral to health services, including vaccination. As well, Pima County Health Department provided funding to develop “local responses to address COVID 19 health disparities among populations at risk” and through these combined efforts, we have developed our SEAHEC Casa Alitas Migrant Healthcare Program, known as “CHAMPS”.

SEAHEC CHAMPS Program: Casa Alitas Migrant Healthcare Program: Tucson, AZ

Casa Alitas, formed in 2014, under Catholic Community Services, Southern Arizona has been providing services andsupport for asylum seekers since that time. In 2021, at the height of the COVID 19 pandemic, SEAHEC, in partnershipwith Casa Alitas, was awarded our first grant through the CDC Foundation enabling us to establish a cadre of communityhealth workers (CHWs) to address COVID 19, vaccine hesitancy and other health and health education needs of migrantfamilies. Since that time, SEAHEC has received a continuation award from CDC Foundation, in FY 22/23 and now in23/24, allowing our migrant healthcare program to grow and strengthen.

CHAMPS- has two primary goals:
      1. to provide quality, culturally appropriate health services to migrants, and   
  2. to provide culturally respectful and linguistically appropriate health education and support to migrants.

SEAHEC’s CHAMPS Program now provides health services to migrants, through a three-pronged approach:
  •               developing and deploying volunteer health care providers,             

  • providing referrals to the El Rio Community Health Center and to local Emergency Departments as needed,                  as well as             

  • providing care coordination, health education and support through SEAHEC’s community health worker                  workforce.

“No more than 1 month ago, the walls of Casa Alitas were blank. Now, the walls are beginning to have more color, with the bright red and blue colors representing children’s stories worldwide. From their childhood home to their family portraits, children express their dreams in detail on a single piece of paper. Coloring allows these children to escape from their reality for a few minutes and immerse themselves back into their childhood life away from the trauma they see in their parents eyes.” Amy Pacheco, CHW

Developing and deploying volunteer health care providers

Under the coordination of Susana Gastelum Selig, CHAMPS Coordinator, SEAHEC/Alitas now has a total of 18 volunteer clinical providers. “We are very grateful for their dedication, compassion and care”, says Gail Emrick, SEAHEC Director. The CHAMPS program represents an opportunity for asylum seekers to establish a source of health and medical care in the United States by providing continuum of care such as resources upon arrival to the shelter and referrals for when asylum seekers arrives to their destination communities.

Southeast Arizona Health Education Center, SEAHEC – Website Article for CDC F Migrant Healthcare Programming 2023


SEAHEC COMMUNITY HEALTH WORKERS ACTIVITIES AT CASA ALITAS“An integral part of CHAMPS is the central role of the community health workers (CHWs) or promotores, who serve as aliaison between migrant guests and the support and services they need”, says Amy Pacheco CHW and ProjectCoordinator. SEAHEC CHWs have been trained through the Arizona Community Health Workers Association (AzCHOW)and have skill sets which include: Care coordination; social support; group facilitation; education and information;resources and referrals among others.

SEAHECs CHWs have provided health education, support and referrals to over 3000 guests, including information on COVID, disease prevention strategies, information to combat myths and misinformation and referrals to services both in Tucson and destination communities. The CHAMPS CHW team connect migrant families to health and social services, legal services, housing and other needed care in most places of the country, making sure guests follow up and the treatment does not end when their stay at the shelter finishes.

Between August 2022 and July 2023, a total of 3626 individuals that arrived at Casa Alitas have received health services.



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