Read part I of this special series on-line by clicking this link www.iexaminer.org.
In 2001, a sudden car crash shattered the wonderful life Wing Tse shared with his wife and two daughters. After months in a coma, years of painful surgeries and therapy, losing his career, and enduring deep depression, Tse finally feels happy again – all thanks to state-funded Adult Day Services program offered by the Legacy House. Adult Day Services program, however, is now in jeopardy of elimination. It is one of the programs proposed for complete elimination by Gov. Christine Gregoire in December of 2011, as a part of the state-wide budget cuts. Legislators are scheduled to vote on all proposed cuts in January of 2012, and a decision will be made at the end of the month.
Adult Day Services is an important health-related program that directly impacts the low-income population of Seattle’s Asian Pacific American community. Other health programs that impact the same demographic, and are also proposed for cuts and eliminations are, Medical Interpretation, Chemical Dependency, and Basic Health.
Medical Interpretation and Basic Health are also proposed for complete elimination, while Chemical Dependency is up for a 26.3 million dollar reduction. These programs are essential for low-income APA’s, and absolutely necessary for seniors and the disabled – among them, 62-year-old Tse, who has no other means to pay for the type of rehabilitation offered by Adult Day Services.
“[I was] born in Hong Kong. [I] came to [the United States] to work,” recalled Tse, who worked at International District’s House of Hong as a dim sum chef, “[I was] on my way to work [during the accident]. [I] stopped at red light and someone hit me. I was in a coma for two months. No one told me what happened. I’m still not sure. I don’t remember [anything about the accident].”
After surviving the accident, Tse had a difficult time getting his life back. Even today, he cannot walk properly, and needs help getting around. Needless to say, Tse was also unable to return to his job, and needed government assistance to pay for medical debt.
“[I] went to therapy. I hit my head. I broke my leg. My brain can’t work with [my] leg. I was also deaf. I can’t control the pain,” said Tse, “It was very difficult. I was depressed. There was no hope at all after accident.”
To Tse’s advantage, Asian Counseling and Referral Services (ACRS) came to his aid, and referred him to Adult Day Services at Legacy House. In this 18-year-old program, Tse was able to join other handicapped individuals and seniors to access social and health care, including medical management, nutritious Asian meals, and occupational therapy. Program runs daily from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and provides free transportation for all participants.
“It took me a year to get used to,” said Tse of the Adult Day Services program, “[but] now I feel so happy, because of the staff [and] their motivation.”
“I feel excited to come here every day,” said Tse. “Before, life had no meaning. Now I am happy. If the program was cut, I’d stay home and wait to die.”
“The adult day health program at Legacy House serves over 140 Asian Pacific American Participants. [It is] a culturally competent and much needed program,” said Gary Tang, program director of Aging Services at ACRS, “Adult Day Health really improves the function of clients. A lot of them have stroke…they need help.”
One of the stroke patients is 81-year-old Mariano Soriano. After retiring in the Philippines, he came to the United States to join his children, but was already too old to get a job. Then, he was struck by two heart attacks, and now wears a pace maker and needs medical assistance.
“[I have been in Adult Day Services for] more than eight years,” said Soriano, “Legacy House helped me a lot… this program continued my rehabilitation. Hospital wants to give me home care, but this establishment helps. [It has] free transportation.”
“[If I didn’t have the Adult Day Services], I would have to go to nursing home,” added Soriano, “no [other] program can help me.”
To save the program, Soriano, along with director of Legacy House Paula Tomlinson, have voiced their concerns to state government.
“I talked to representatives in Olympia,” said Soriano, “we are asking [them] to help continue rehabilitation.”
“They have to stop balancing budget on the back of the poor,” said Tomlinson, “[the state proposed to] cut all Adult Day Services [to] almost 200 of our clients [and] decrease the amount of people we can serve in Medicaid.”
“I was appalled that Adult Day Services was even mentioned,” Added Tomlinson, “I testified against the [proposed budget cuts], wrote to the senator, governor and president. I was infuriated. It’s disproportionally hitting my residents and clients.”
Also disproportionally hitting the poor is cutting Basic Health, which currently assists around 35,000 low-income individuals around the state, and around 3,000 Asian Pacific Americans. Many recipients are patients at International Community Health Services (ICHS). The clinic has two locations in Seattle, and services mostly low-income, uninsured APA’s, but welcomes anyone who needs healthcare.
ICHS provides medical, dental and pharmacy services by a staff that speaks a variety of languages. The establishment also provides Medical Interpretation, which is also up for elimination.
“Communication is key to good healthcare,” said Teresita Batayola, director of ICHS, “70 percent of our patients need interpretation. When it comes to understanding the medical concepts or medical terms, you are under the risk of getting the wrong care. They might get sicker.”
“We have been cut every single year since 2008,” added Batayola, “it’s like amputating limbs now. [It means] abandoning people…letting people die all because they’ve become unemployed or are poor.”
“[Having basic health] helped [us] a lot,” said Ling Hao, a political refugee from Tibet who came to the United States to seek a better life for his family, “two years ago, my wife had a sudden stomach ache. We went to [the] emergency room, and the bill was $8,000.”
An $8,000 bill is a lot for anyone, but for a low-income family like the Hao’s, it’s more than they could bear.
“We were scared, [but] then we realized we have basic health, and we only had to pay $150,” continued Hao, “[without basic health], we don’t have anything…a lot of people would go back to China if there’s no basic health. Health care is the basic security we have.”
For some people, like the clients of ACRS’s Chemical Dependency Program, even basic security is far from reach.
Michelle Huynh, a 20-year-old Vietnamese immigrant, has had an unstable life since she was a child. Growing up in a household addicted to drugs, alcohol and gambling, Huynh never had any positive influence. When she started Chemical Dependency program at ACRS last year, she was going down a dark path.
“I started [drinking] when I was 12 or 13. I smoked weed when I was 11. I was using ecstasy at 14,” recalled Huynh, “I dropped out of school [at] 15, so I can help my mom [raise my brothers].”
At 15, Huynh also started drinking heavily and getting in trouble.
“It was crazy,” said Huynh, “it was not normal.”
Last year, Huynh was arrested and charged with a DUI, and needed to enroll in a public program to avoid jail time. She chose Chemical Dependency program at ACRS, but had a rough time getting started.
“I was mad at myself. I got my car towed and impounded. I had no job. I didn’t like [the program] at all,” admitted Huynh.
Overtime, and with the support of ACRS staff and fellow classmates, Huynh, “started getting positive.”
“[Michelle] has made a lot of progress,” said Leslie Christen, Chemical Dependency counselor at ACRS, “she is also supportive to the other ladies in the group. All the women come from different past. They all support each other.”
“[Now,] I am totally a different person,” said Huynh.
Currently, Huynh is a proud graduate of beauty school and thriving in a career as a hair stylist. For the first time in her life, she has a stable job and home life. But not only did she turn her own life around, she also influenced family members.
“[Michelle] is the main anchor of the family,” said Victor Loo, director of Chemical Dependency program at ACRS, “because of her own positive change, one of her younger brothers [who is 16 and] has dropped out of school…decided to re-enroll. She is the positive change agent to her entire family.”
To further advance positively, Huynh needs to remain in the program – a program that is in danger of severe budget cuts.
“[If I don’t have the program anymore,] I know I’m going to go to jail,” said Huynh, “I really can’t afford [anything else] right now…If I do go to jail, I’m sure a lot of people will go to jail [too].”
“It will become a bigger state deficit [if people go to jail or become homeless],” added Loo.
Without the Chemical Dependency program, Huynh has no hope. Just like her, neither does Tse, Soriano, Hao and many other members of the APA population if important health programs are eliminated.
As the so-called Model Minority, APA’s in Seattle have worked hard to build a solid community. Now, it is time they help each other, especially those in need, to truly exemplify strength.