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BASTA serving health needs of farm workers

June 07, 2002|By JENNIFER RALTON-SMITH

Staff Writer

There's $300,000 on the table for a new health program exclusively for agricultural workers in Imperial County.

The program, Buena Alimentacion Y Salud Para Trabajadores Agricolas (which translates "good health and nutrition for agricultural workers) is funded by The California Endowment, an organization formed in 1996 to address fundamental health needs of "underserved individuals and communities" in California.

Statewide, $10.5 million was granted to 30 organizations serving the health needs of California's farm workers.

Locally the program will operate under the auspices of the Imperial County Migrant Education department and director Jaime Silva is excited about the potential for the program.

"Working with children in our migrant education programs we realized their parents had health needs as well that were not being met. But because of the funding guidelines of those programs we could not offer these services to the parents," Silva said when interviewed Thursday.

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The program, to be known by its acronym BASTA, which in Spanish means enough, provides basic medical care appointments with local practitioners as well as offering two health clinics annually in school districts in Calexico, El Centro, Brawley, Calipatria, Holtville, San Pasqual and Westmorland.

The following health services will be provided at the clinics:

· Blood pressure checks;

· vision, hearing and dental screening;

· glucose tests;

· immunization and prevention shots as required.

Health forums will be three times within each school year and will cover the following subjects:

· healthy eating, stress management and exercise regimes;

· presentations dealing with asthma and other breathing disorders and presentations on workplace safety and pesticide awareness;

· prevention strategies and early detection of diabetes and heart disease presentations.

Silva said all clinics and forums will be showcased in a user-friendly manner that will encourage agricultural workers to utilize the low-cost or, in many cases, free health care that is available.

Agricultural workers are encouraged to make appointments with BASTA's health services coordinator, Beatriz Rozette.

Thursday afternoon Rozette was helping Susana Celaya, an agricultural worker from Calexico, set up a dentist appointment to deal with an aching molar.

"Susana came in because she has no medical insurance and she is a field worker and you know, well, the work is seasonal and now the season has stopped," Rozette said with concern in her voice.

With children to support and no field work available until the season starts up again in the fall, Celaya would be hard pressed to be able to afford dental care for herself, Rozette said.

"It's only taken me about 15 minutes to get all her details and now she has an appointment with the dentist tomorrow morning," Rozette said with pride.

"As long as you are an agricultural worker you qualify for our program," Silva said, adding, "A person can be a truck driver who is transporting produce or a person working in a packing shed qualifies. You don't have to be an actual field worker to qualify."

Applicants simply need to bring their most recent paycheck stubs with them when they come into the office or attend a health fair.

"We don't need to see any other proof of eligibility; just the paycheck stub is enough to receive services under this grant," Silva advised.

Imperial Valley has approximately 17,000 agricultural workers and Silva said those workers who have no health insurance or at best limited insurance are the program's "highest priority."

Statewide there are more than 1 million agricultural workers and, according to a California

Endowment press release, these workers account for a nearly $30 million chunk of the state's economy.

For further information on the program or to make an appointment call Rozette at 312-6451.

>> On the Web:

http//www.calendow.org/agworkerrfp

>> Staff Writer Jennifer Ralton-Smith can be reached at 337-3442 or dingo87@earthlink.net

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