Community Health Center in the Bronx Adopts Innovative Plan to Improve Health Care Services for Patients with Disabilities

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New York, NY—September 27, 2016—Today, Union Community Health Center (UCHC) and Bronx Independent Living Services (BILS) unveiled a comprehensive plan to provide accessible health care for patients with disabilities in the Bronx. The Bronx is New York City’s most medically underserved borough and people with disabilities especially feel the brunt of its inadequate health care options. By prioritizing patients with disabilities, UCHC is a model for community health centers in underserved areas across the country.

This unique collaboration between a healthcare provider and the disability community provides an accessibility roadmap for other community health centers. The far-reaching plan settles a 2015 lawsuit and is the result of productive negotiations between UCHC, BILS, Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), and three Bronx residents with disabilities:  Brett Eisenberg, Rodolfo Diaz, and Antonia Ayala.

The comprehensive plan includes:

  • Alternative formats (such as braille, audio, and large print) for blind patients;
  • American Sign Language as a first resort for deaf and hard of hearing patients upon request;
  • Organizational training that promotes best practices to meet the needs of patients and visitors with disabilities;
  • Height-adjustable medical equipment so that people with disabilities can be examined properly; and
  • Redesign of architectural barriers that affect persons with mobility and visual disabilities.

“People with disabilities have worse health outcomes than the general population, and health care providers’ lack of appropriate communication protocols, medical equipment, and facilities are part of the reason why,” said Brett Eisenberg, a plaintiff in the suit and Executive Director of BILS.  “It is a great relief to the disability community that UCHC will eliminate those barriers for patients in the Bronx.”

Dr. Douglas L. York, CEO of UCHC, explained that “as one of the largest safety-net providers in New York City and an innovator in health initiatives in the Bronx, UCHC is devoted to improving the health of medically underserved populations in our borough.  UCHC is pleased to promote the procedures, staff expertise, and equipment necessary to meet the needs of people with disabilities, and will continue to work hard to break down barriers that are the root cause of health disparities.”

“UCHC’s commitments today will make it a leader in medical service provision for people with disabilities in the Bronx,” said Christina Brandt-Young, a Senior Staff Attorney at DRA.  “UCHC shows that other community health centers in low-income and underserved areas can provide accessible health care for people with disabilities.”

About Union Community Health Center
Union Community Health Center is a not-for-profit Federally Qualified Health Center providing approximately 179,000 medical, dental and physical rehabilitation visits each year to approximately 37,000 individual patients at its five locations in the Bronx.  Union’s mission is to provide comprehensive, culturally competent primary and preventive health care services to improve the health and decrease health disparities of the medically underserved populations in the Bronx, providing services to all regardless of age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or the ability to pay.  To learn more about Union Community Health Center, visit www.uchcbronx.org.

About Bronx Independent Living Services
Bronx Independent Living Services (“BILS”) is an independent living center located at 4419 Third Avenue, Bronx, New York.  Founded in 1983, BILS is a consumer-based, non-profit organization providing services and advocacy for independent living for individuals with disabilities.  BILS’s mission is to ensure full integration, independence, and equal opportunity for all people with disabilities by removing barriers to the social, economic, cultural, and civic life of the community.

About Disability Rights Advocates (DRA)
DRA is the leading non-profit disability rights legal center in the nation.  With offices in Berkeley and New York City, DRA’s mission is to advance equal rights and opportunities for people with all types of disabilities nationwide.  DRA represents people with the full spectrum of disabilities in complex, system-change, class action cases.  Thanks to DRA’s precedent-setting work, people with disabilities across the country have dramatically improved access to health care, employment, transportation, education, disaster preparedness planning, voting, and housing.  For more information, visit the Disability Rights Advocates website at www.dralegal.org

Contacts

Luz Correa
Director of Public Affairs, Union Community Health Center, Inc.
(718) 618-8590
lcorrea@uchcbronx.org

Brett L. Eisenberg
Executive Director, Bronx Independent Living Services
Telephone:  (718) 515-2800
Video Phone:  (347) 269-1792
brett@bils.org

Christina Brandt-Young
Senior Staff Attorney, Disability Rights Advocates
(212) 644-8644
Cbrandt-young@dralegal.org