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Reaching More Maine People

Here at MeHAF we've been working with a group of grantees since 2010 to reach out to Maine people, especially the uninsured and underserved, to inform them about changes in health benefits resulting from national and state health reforms. To help us be more inclusive in this work, we released a request for proposals in the summer of 2011, seeking organizations that could help us better reach communities with diverse language or cultural needs. We were able to fund two organizations, Maine Migrant Health Program (MMHP) and The Somali Culture and Development Association (SCDA), to expand the scope and impact of the larger group's work.   

With this grant funding, MMHP and SCDA have reached the people they serve, many of whom are new immigrants and migrants, with important messages about eligibility for a variety of health benefits and programs. Maine Equal Justice Partners (MEJP), a grantee from the first round of outreach funding, served as the content expert for the information they shared.  

You may have seen the article in the Bangor Daily News summarizing some of the recent changes to eligibility for different benefit programs here in Maine, including MaineCare. These changes have the greatest impact on Maine's newest arrivals who have not yet been residents of the United States for five years. Working with MEJP, the MMHP and the SCDA worked to ensure that these complicated changes were explained clearly in appropriate languages and in a culturally sensitive manner.

Maine Migrant Health Program (MMHP), in partnership with Mano en Mano, reached Haitian and Latino farmworkers around the state.  90% of those served by MMHP are uninsured and all fall below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. To simplify the information about federal and state benefit programs, MMHP created a flowchart to help outreach workers share information about benefit changes and track who qualified for which programs. They hosted six community meetings in Deblois, Waterville, Ellsworth, Turner, Milbridge, and Westfield to provide information translated into Spanish and Creole, walking people through the flow chart and addressing individual questions about program eligibility. They are currently working on a system to stay in contact with migrant workers whose questions can't be answered right away.      

The Somali Culture and Development Association worked with MEJP to decide the most important information that needed to be shared and then translated it into French, Somali and Arabic for the Somali, Sudanese, Burundian, Iraqi and Congolese communities in the Portland area.  They used a number of approaches to reach different members of the community, including educating community leaders and elders, holding meetings at five mosques, and holding a large community meeting for non-Muslim community members. In addition, 2,000 special edition copies of a Somali newspaper with a Portland and Lewiston circulation reached those who could not attend in-person meetings.

In 2012, we look forward to working with all the grantees that made this outreach and education work a success over the last year and a half. This is an exciting opportunity to learn more from each other and improve MeHAF's ability to reach more Maine people and communities in order to advance our mission:  to promote access to quality health care, especially for those who are uninsured and underserved, and improve the health of everyone in Maine.

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