There are nearly 11 million immigrants living in California, according to Public Policy Institute of California. A large portion of them are undocumented, making them ineligible for insurance and preventing them from being able to access the care they need.
When Margo Young, MD, a sister within the Catholic Church, served as director of community health at Dignity Health’s St. Bernardine Medical Center and Community Hospital of San Bernardino, she helped lead a partnership to expand access and support for the community. The result: the Lestonnac Free Clinic.
Lestonnac provides free comprehensive medical and dental care to uninsured patients, treating thousands of people who otherwise would not have access to affordable healthcare. Dignity Health’s support of this vital healthcare resource is part of a broader set of partnerships it has forged across the state to improve access to care for the immigrant community. The clinic provides supported, safe and secure primary care and dental services through the generosity of volunteers and donors, and proactively facilitates referrals from the clinic to hospitals and vice versa. “It’s about getting people what they need in order to be healthy,” said Dr. Young. “It’s about their quality of life.”
Dr. Young is no stranger when it comes to assisting immigrants gaining access to healthcare. She participated in Operation Bienvenida, a program through the Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino designed to assist immigrants who were released from ICE detention centers. Dignity Health provided food and other resources to help them on the next leg of their journey. Since launching in 2018, Operation Bienvenida has seen a fluctuation in need and numbers, but the program is gearing up again, says Dr. Young, and is presently partnering with county and nonprofits to accompany immigrants entering the United States from the Southern border.
Dr. Young continues to partner with St. Bernardine Medical Center to connect the dots for immigrants to find accessible healthcare and to help build trust within the community and healthcare providers. “This community needs a setting where they feel comfortable to learn about their healthcare,” said Dr. Young. “Lestonnac is one of those places, especially in partnership with Dignity Health.”
Building trust within the community through health education
For patients who have never had formal healthcare before, maneuvering the process can sometimes be overwhelming. Lestonnac Free Clinic provides a mix of volunteer health educators and health navigators (offered in both English and Spanish) to help patients fill out paperwork, understand their coverage, share best practices to help encourage immigrants to seek care and coverage, discuss where to find prescriptions, help find post-care housing for those who are homeless, and more.
“The Dignity Health partnership plays a great part in this, as they refer patients back to our community health educators and navigators,” said Dr. Young. Lestonnac Free Clinic and Dignity Health also partner to provide additional healthcare for patients, including outpatient surgeries for hernias or referrals for specialty consults for ongoing conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes—at no cost.
“These are vulnerable groups and populations, but Dignity Health really does seek to connect the dots for them to get what they need to live a sustainable life,” said Dr. Young.
Lestonnac Free Clinic
Lestonnac provides Southern California’s uninsured residents access to comprehensive medical care, including over 20 specialty care services.Learn more about Lestonnac Free Clinic