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Sacramento Health Center Translates, Helps Navigate Afghan Refugees Through Healthcare System

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - Advocates at Elica Health Centers work with refugee and immigrant communities to navigate the healthcare system that includes getting the right insurance, making appointments, finding specialists, or a pediatrician for a child.

The health centers offer translation services in languages, including Spanish, Russian, Ukrainian, Arabic, Farsi, and Pashto. Information is also shared in multiple languages, on-site and online. There are staff members who also speak these languages and can act as translators to bridge the communication gap that may hold people back from getting the healthcare they need.

"They don't know who their doctor is, they don't know how to get a doctor, they don't know where to go, they don't know where to call," said Kseniya Levco, Social Care Director Supervisor at the North Highlands Elica Health Center.

Levco is an immigrant, too, and said she understands the feeling of being left-out because of language.

"It helps a lot [that I speak multiple languages] because I remember how difficult it is not understanding. People not being able to explain things to me in my own language because they don't know how to explain it," said Levco. 

Now, she tries to be that person she didn't have. A familiar face, voice, and advocate.

"A lot of times the barriers come from people not knowing how to advocate for themselves. I advocate for them," said said.

Transportation services to and from appointments is also provided. A blessing for Lida Ghafory's family, who fled Afghanistan two months ago because of the Taliban. They arrived to the U.S. with no money, no vehicle, and few belongings.  

Through a translator, Ghafory said she was relieved to be connected with the Elica Health Center. Her husband, who she said spoke some english, wasn't able to make his own appointments. The staff at Elica, helped.

"They provide us transportation to go to our appointments, so that was the biggest blessing for her," said Zarlasht Larmal, translating for Ghafory. 

The feeling of helplessness is what the staff at Elica centers want to help refugees, like Ghafory, avoid. They have a free store, filled with donations, that people can come to and restart their lives with the right items. The donation center has clothes, home goods, toys, and decorations. There is also a stash of baby formula, diapers, and feminine hygiene products.

"She said, I feel like a child here starting from nothing and it makes her really upset," said Larmal, translating for Ghafory. 

In two months, Ghafory has been able to establish insurance, find her own primary care doctor and specialist doctor, and attend doctor's appointments. She can now take care of herself, and with support with transportation and translation, it's possible.

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