Refugees resettling in Rhode Island rely on health care providers to screen and treat them for medical conditions that may pose a threat to them or the community.
The Rhode Island Refugee Health Screening Form outlines the minimum standards for an initial health assessment of refugees resettling in Rhode Island. The screening form identifies the baseline evaluation that should be performed with refugees, promotes uniform care, facilitates entry into the primary care system, and identifies surveillance indicators to be tracked and analyzed by the Refugee Health Program. In addition, the Rhode Island Refugee Health Screening Form is a tool for screening doctors to use in making other health referrals as needed.
Refugees should receive a health screening within 30 days of arrival (within 7 days for HIV+ refugees). Some refugees arrive with Class B conditions that require rapid follow-up. If this is the case, there will be a notation on the refugee’s overseas medical record indicating the follow-up needed and how quickly it should be provided. The refugee should bring a copy of his/her overseas exam results to the initial health screening in the United States. In Rhode Island, voluntary resettlement agencies coordinate with screening sites to schedule appointments. Following the screening, a completed Rhode Island Refugee Health Screening Form sent to the Refugee Health Program within 30 additional days.
Under federal legislation, refugees are eligible for eight months of medical coverage from their date of entry into the country. The medical coverage is administered through the state Medicaid program in the state in which they settled, or paid by Refugee Medical Assistance (federal funding for health services for refugees). In Rhode Island, refugees are enrolled in either RIte Care or Medical Assistance for the eight-month period. The refugee health screening is a covered expense under these programs. After the guaranteed coverage expires, refugees may continue to receive state health benefits if they meet the eligibility requirements put forth by the Department of Human Services.
Many refugees will not have had access to comprehensive health care for years, if ever. Their initial contact with you may be the first opportunity in their lives to receive client-focused, high quality health care. At the same time, building a relationship and providing optimal care to refugees can be a challenge for health professionals. Refugees often lack knowledge of English, leading to feelings of isolation and mistrust. The health system will often seem very complicated to refugees and they may need assistance with acquiring prescriptions and other tasks. Many may be suffering from serious mental illnesses due to trauma and grief and may be stigmatized by their society. There may be shame associated with certain contracted diseases such as HIV. Additionally, women may often prefer a female practitioner and may experience strong emotional and psychological responses during gynecological exams due to past sexual abuse.
We work with voluntary resettlement agencies and the provider community to ensure that refugees are offered the care for which they are eligible in a manner that is both medically and culturally appropriate.