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Just Thoughts is the blog of the Empire Justice Center, New York’s statewide, multi-issue, multi-strategy public interest law firm focused on changing the “systems” within which poor and low income families live. Here staff and guest authors will share stories, announcements and perspectives on timely issues related to our work.    



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Giving Tuesday is November 29!


     

Looking for ways to take ACTION?
 
On Tuesday, November 29, 2016, come together with other people, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world for one common purpose: to support organizations that DO GOOD.
 
The day has many names—internationally known as #GivingTuesday, we also have the stateside  'New York Gives' , and #ROCtheDay in Rochester.
 
Often lumped together with Black Friday during the holiday season, #GivingTuesday encourages people to invest in their community by donating to organizations that defend the values that they believe in. There's no rules for participation, just go to the website for the nonprofit(s) that you'd like to support and make a donation.
 
It's a chance for everyone to take part in supporting the values and ideals that you care about most. For us here at Empire Justice, it's laws and policies that make sense, community empowerment, and fairness for all in the justice system.
 
And that's what you get when you invest in Empire Justice - together with your help, we make the law work for all New Yorkers on a systemic level through policy advocacy, class actions, on-the-ground advocacy for individuals, and capacity building through training and support to other organizations around New York State.
 
So whatever way you choose to participate, #GivingTuesday, #ROCtheDay, or through New York Gives, choose fairness for all and help us make the law work for all New Yorkers.



Tags: civil rights | Giving Tuesday | Rochester | Albany | social justice | legal services | legal aid





The Supreme Court Reigns Supreme: Protecting Equal Rights, Access to Health Care for All

Issue Area: Health, Civil Rights


WHAT A WEEK FOR JUSTICE!

Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that federal subsidies for health care will continue to flow to those who need affordable insurance the most, regardless of which state they live in.  It’s heartening to know that the Supreme Court has again upheld the validity of the Affordable Care Act, and this latest challenge to expanded access to health insurance is behind us.  Here at Empire Justice Center, we’ll continue to work to make sure that everyone is able to obtain quality health care.  Our friends at Health Care for All New York have released a statement – check it out here.



Marriage equality is now a legal reality in the entire United States! In a landmark decision, the SCOTUS ruled today in Obergefell v. Hodges that it is unconstitutional for states to ban same-sex marriage.  Justice Anthony Kennedy stated in the opinion that same-sex and opposite-sex couples alike are guaranteed “equal dignity in the eye of the law” under the U.S. Constitution.  We honor and thank the brave couples who demanded full equality for their families, and the lawyers and organizations who continued to fight for this victory! Today truly is a historic day to celebrate!









Finding a Summer Meal Program


We all know that nutrition is one of the building blocks of healthy and growing minds and bodies.  Around New York, millions of kids depend on school lunch programs, and now finding summer meal programs for kids is easier than ever.

Hunger Solutions New York has developed this easy to use tool to help families find programs close to home.  Click the summer meals button below to find the program nearest to you!

     



Tags: summer meal programs | childhood hunger | feeding programs





Bringing Together Language Access Advocates on Long Island


For many years, I have worked as a legal advocate and social worker with immigrant communities on Long Island.  During this time, I have witnessed the many difficulties which my clients have experienced in negotiating the system, obtaining benefits from government agencies, gaining police protection, accessing healthcare and understanding information about their child’s educational needs.  These difficulties are often compounded when there are language barriers or cultural misunderstandings.  When government funded programs, such as the police and social services, do not provide proper interpretation or translation, the results can be disastrous, leading to homelessness, a lack of protection for victims of domestic violence or other crimes, inadequate healthcare and even the removal of the children from the household.
 
Many other advocates on Long Island have shared these concerns.  Even though Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits recipients of federal funds from practicing national origin discrimination, we were aware that this was happening on Long Island on a daily basis.  For this reason, in October 2010, several advocates from a diverse group of programs and agencies came together to form the Long Island Language Advocates Coalition (LILAC).

LILAC has been active in addressing the disparities faced by limited English proficient (LEP) community members on Long Island  by documenting these problems, reaching out to program administrators and policy makers, letting them know the challenges our community members are experiencing, reminding them of their legal obligations and providing them with technical support.  We have seen positive results, including the assigning of more bilingual workers, increased staff training, improved signage and translations of vital documents.  We are also very encouraged by the passage of New York State Executive Order No. 26, which mandates state agencies with frequent public contact to provide comprehensive interpretation and translation services, and by the enforcement efforts of New York State’s Attorney General and the U.S. Department of Justice.  In alliance with other organizations, LILAC has been instrumental in gaining the passage of executive orders in Suffolk and Nassau counties which mandate county agencies to provide interpretation when needed, as well as translation of vital documents into six languages.  Yet we know that there is still so much work to be done and that we need to continue strategizing and learning to move forward!
 
On Friday, November 15th at Touro Law Center in Central Islip, LILAC will hold its second annual conference, “Navigating a Roadmap for Language Access: Celebrating Our Successes, Addressing Our Challenges.”  The purpose of this conference is to continue raising awareness and seeking solutions to the need for language access and cultural competence in our communities. 

The conference will begin with an overview of language access presented by Michael Mule, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice (and former employee of Empire Justice Center).  Workshops will feature a number of renowned speakers including Jose Perez of Latino Justice/PRLDEF, who will address language access and law enforcement issues, the Office of the NY State Attorney General discussing voting rights and Dr. Jack Levine of Nassau University Medical Center presenting findings of a study on the disparities in services for Hispanic families with children with autism.  Hot topics such as Language Access and Disaster Recovery, and Language Access and the Affordable Care Act will also be covered, in addition to numerous other topics. 

The afternoon will conclude with a panel of Suffolk County representatives discussing their plans to improve language access services on a local level.  We hope that participants will leave this conference with a better understanding of the issues and acquire the tools and resources necessary to improve their agency’s services, to assist their community members or to defend their own right to language access. 

To register online, go to www.longislandlanguageadvocates.org.  Early registration ends November 8th, so please register now for a reduced rate.  We look forward to seeing you there!



Tags: language access | limited English proficient | LILAC | New York State Attorney General





What’s New in Medicaid: Breaking it Down for You


Are you feeling overwhelmed trying to comprehend all the changes that are happening to New York’s Medicaid program?  We can help!

Trilby de Jung, our Senior Health Law Attorney, and her Health Team colleagues here at Empire Justice have been hard at work analyzing and monitoring the upcoming changes to Medicaid and public health insurance coverage in New York State as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and how these changes will affect low income consumers.  We are also busy keeping abreast of MRT (Medicaid Redesign Team) implementation.

We wanted to alert you to two new resources we’ve developed for health care advocates, policymakers, community based organizations and government partners working with Medicaid-eligible households:

  1. A comprehensive report on immigrants and the Health Insurance Exchange.  New York’s Exchange Portal:  A Gateway to Coverage for Immigrants is a report written by Trilby de Jung and Barbara Weiner.  The report includes an Immigrant Eligibility Crosswalk, which is a new tool to help navigate the complex intersections of immigration status and eligibility for Exchange related subsidies, Medicaid programs and emergency health care coverage options.
  2. A new cycle of free “lunch and learn” health access webinars.  The first webinar, held June 24th, was Immigrant Access to Health Care; the topic for our July 8th webinar was Medicaid Eligibility in 2014.  Both webinars were filled to capacity!  If you missed them, the sessions were recorded and will soon be posted on our website. 
  • Upcoming lunch and learn topics will include Changes to Medicaid Home Care Options and Medicaid Eligibility in 2014 for the Elderly and Disabled.  Stay tuned for announcements about dates and registration information!


Another great place to get timely and helpful information about Medicaid is by visiting www.nyhealthaccess.org, our collaborative website with the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) and the Legal Aid Society.  Be sure to check Empire Justice’s website, Facebook and Twitter pages for updates.



Tags: immigrants | health care | Medicaid | Affordable Care Act | health insurance exchange





Simplifying the Complexities Surrounding Immigrant Access to Health Care


Last week we released a two part report about immigrant access to health care in New York.  The first part describes the evolution of the patchwork of laws passed by Congress that impact immigrant access to health care, including the federal Affordable Care Act, and how this complicates determining immigrant access to existing and emerging health care coverage options in New York State.

At the end of this section we discuss New York’s proposed online Health Insurance Exchange application, and how New York could fine tune it.  Our biggest recommendation is to fully incorporate the Department of Health’s ground breaking process for pre-certifying undocumented immigrants for Emergency Medicaid through the online Exchange application.  Why?  We believe pre-certification will encourage immigrant families to apply for health care coverage through the Exchange, and it will help the hospitals that serve as safety nets for the uninsured maximize their revenues.

The second part of our report is a detailed “Immigrant Eligibility Crosswalk” and a glossary of status related terms.  This crosswalk, which lists New York’s health insurance programs along the top and noncitizen statuses along the left hand side, allows users to easily locate the particular health insurance programs for which a noncitizen in a specific status will be eligible.  This new tool will help policymakers, health care staff and advocates navigate the complex intersections of immigration status and health care coverage eligibility that we described in part one of the report.

Empire Justice will be scheduling a webinar to familiarize people with the report and to get the word out about the crosswalk and the Health Department’s approach to pre-certifying immigrants for Emergency Medicaid.

In the meantime, please take a look at our report and the crosswalk and let us know what you think.



Tags: immigrants | health care | Medicaid | Affordable Care Act | health insurance | access to health care | health insurance exchange