May 2, 2002
HEALTH DEPARTMENT, DSS TO ASSESS NEEDS OF REFUGEES
RELOCATING TO MECKLENBURG COUNTY
Charlotte, NC – The Mecklenburg County Health Department is preparing to conduct medical evaluations on hundreds of refugees who will soon call North Carolina and Mecklenburg County their new home.
The U.S. State Department estimates the first of more than 800 Montagnard refugees to arrive in North Carolina by May 12. Of these 800 arrivals, 225 are expected in Mecklenburg County.
The Montagnards are aboriginal hill people of southern Vietnam. The Vietnam War destroyed many of their villages and one-third of their numbers. This population faces extinction from their government’s encroachment on the rain forests they call home and the continued backlash of their association with the U.S. during the Vietnam War.
“These new residents of Mecklenburg County have not had the benefit of modern medical care,” says Dr. Stephen Keener, medical director for the Mecklenburg County Health Department. “We will be providing them with basic medical exams and assessments, and, if necessary, refer them to sources for additional evaluation and treatment.”
The Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services (DSS) will work with two sponsoring agencies, Catholic Social Services and the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society, to offer help through the DSS Refugee Assistance Program. Benefits could include Medicaid and Work First, also known as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
The federal government will provide North Carolina the funds for local health departments to assure the staffing capacity and extra resources necessary to conduct the exams within 30 days of the refugees' arrival.