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House of Representatives Seal Congressional Hispanic Caucus

Health Consortium

Congresswoman Grace F. Napolitano formed a 38th District Health Consortium of local health experts to identify local health issues, develop proposals to improve healthcare in the 38th District and investigate the impact of healthcare legislation on local communities. The Consortium formed three subcommittees with different priority issues:

Mental Health Subcommittee Priorities:

  • Shortage of bilingual/bicultural mental health professionals. The Congresswoman is working on legislation to address this shortage through training grants, loan repayment programs and recruitment efforts.
  • Discrimination in the individual insurance market against individuals with a previous history of mental illness. Several million Americans have no insurance through their employers and must purchase their own plans. They can be denied coverage because of past mental health services. The Congresswoman is working on legislation to eliminate this discrimination.
  • Shortage of housing for the mentally ill. In the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Section 811 housing program, 75 percent of funds go toward housing for individuals with disabilities, including mental illness. The Congresswoman has continued to fight for this program and opposes any efforts to freeze its funding.

Health Professions Subcommittee Priorities:

  • Nursing shortage. The Consortium developed two proposals to train nurse professionals of all levels, from certified nursing assistants to registered nurses with masters degrees. The Congresswoman has secured $10 million for training from Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer. She is also working to secure additional funds.

School-Based Health Subcommittee Priorities:

  • School Nurses. Many schools in the 38th District cannot afford to hire full-time school nurses, leaving students without anyone to address health needs that arise at school. The Congresswoman is working with Consortium members on legislation to establish federal grant funding for local schools to hire school nurses.

Healthcare Worker Shortage

Congresswoman Grace F. Napolitano has made addressing the shortage of healthcare workers a top priority. While this is a national problem, California is particularly hard hit - suffering from the second worst shortages of nurses in the country. Not only is there a shortage of healthcare workers in general, there is a particular shortage of those able to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate care to California's diverse patient population. In fact, only 2 perent of nurses in California are Hispanic!

This shortage has hit California at the same time as heightened unemployment. This is particularly true in several of the cities in the 38th congressional district, which has unemployment rates higher than the national average. Napolitano is determined to attack both problems at once with a proposal to train 1,600 healthcare workers in Southeast Los Angeles County. Because the program would draw from such diverse communities, it will add many new culturally and linguistically competent healthcare workers to our workforce.

Napolitano assembled a consortium of local hospitals, health care providers and healthcare worker training institutions to address this and other local health concerns. The consortium developed the detailed proposal to prepare, train and upgrade 1,600 healthcare workers, including Certified Nurse Assistants (CNA's) and Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVN's). Napolitano is currently seeking funding for this proposal, and has already secured $10,000 from Johnson & Johnson's Campaign for Nursing's Future. All funding will be overseen and administered by the Southeast Los Angeles County Workforce Investment Board (SELACO WIB).

Numerous studies have indicated that when there are fewer nurses and other health professionals to treat patients, patient outcomes decline. Further, a lack of culturally and linguistically appropriate healthcare is a key factor in the many health disparities faced by minorities - particularly Latinos. It is time to reverse these trends while also providing well-paying, secure jobs.

Hispanic Health

As the Chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and an original cosponsor of the Hispanic Health Improvement Act, Congresswoman Napolitano has made issues facing Hispanics a top priority.

Unfortunately, Latinos continue to face enormous barriers to healthcare. Thirty-five percent of Latinos have no health insurance, compared to 14 percent of whites. Two-thirds of Latinos without health insurance are employed -- they are the working poor. Cost is not the only barrier Latinos face in seeking healthcare. Twenty-nine percent of Latinos report difficulty communicating with healthcare providers because of language differences, and 18 percent report that their race/ethnicity makes it difficult for them to find satisfactory healthcare that takes their culture into account.

These tremendous barriers lead to poorer health outcomes for Latinos. Among Latinos, the risk for diabetes is twice that of whites. Latinos have a rate of HIV infection that is four times that of whites. Latinas have the highest rate of cervical cancer for all ethnic groups. In fact, one in three Latina adolescents has seriously considered suicide.

To help address this problem, Napolitano, along with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, has introduced the Hispanic Health Improvement Act. It expands the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) to cover uninsured low income pregnant women and parents, and legal immigrants. It provides targeted funding to reduce Hispanic health disparities through education, prevention and treatment. It also increases funding to diversify our healthcare workforce, which will lead to more culturally and linguistically appropriate care.

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