Texas Healthcare Entities Brace for Impacts of SB4

Healthcare businesses bear the brunt of immigration legislation as families delay preventative and urgent health needs for fear of providing personal identification

Dallas, Texas

Dallas, Tx, July 26, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Just a few months ago the lobby at the Pleasant Grove location of Jefferson Dental Clinics was a bustling mecca for dental services serving dozens of families daily. Today just a few patients sit quietly waiting to be called.

Texas Senate Bill 4 has drawn attention for inciting trepidation, intimidation and uncertainty in communities across Texas, as families brace themselves in fear of separation from their loved ones and livelihood.

Since the introduction of legislative policies like SB4, as well as rhetoric aimed at regulating illegal immigration, healthcare businesses like Jefferson have seen a decline in patients who have fearfully retreated from every day activities.

For 50 years the dental provider has touched more than 200,000 lives annually at 57 locations in predominantly Hispanic and multicultural neighborhoods. Until the tumult of recent months the dental care giant historically has never seen a decline in patients.

“There is a pronounced fear in the communities that we serve. People are saving more and spending less, driving and running errands minimally for fear of being pulled over, and moreover, the fear of health records information security is extremely real,” explains Dr. Leslie Renee Townsend, Regional Dental Director for Jefferson Dental Clinics. “We’ve seen a decline in many of the families that have been regular patients with us for generations.”

While many small businesses in Texas have suffered losses in the first two quarters of the year, large healthcare entities are feeling the brunt of SB4 as people delay or put off preventative and urgent health needs for fear of providing personal identification. Delaying treatment can land families in more emergency situations when conditions worsen and require more costly procedures to resolve.

“There is a public health crisis amass if people are not seeking care for themselves or their families. Emergency visits, many for trivial or non-life-threatening conditions, cost taxpayers billions every year,” says Dr. Townsend. 

The prognosis when SB4 goes into effect on September 1st is uncertain, as families feel pressure to lay low and save money in case of detainment. The bill allows not only law enforcement officials, but a slew of city and public government officials, to investigate and enforce immigration status of any person who is detained. The bill also mandates that officials can be prosecuted and punished for not complying with immediate investigation of a person’s immigration status.  

Efforts to reassure consumer confidence have begun at many Hispanic-serving institutions and businesses. Brands like Jefferson Dental, WIC and others have launched initiatives to reassure, welcome and empower the Hispanic community."We let our patients know that we do not distribute, sell or share their health records or personal information," says Dr. Townsend. 

In May, the dental practice launched #EstamosContigo, a digital empowerment platform coupled with a “Know Your Rights” expert panel jointly with Telemundo, where visitors could interact and ask questions or comfortably watch via a Facebook Live stream.

“Estamos Contigo is the Spanish way of saying ‘we are here for you’,” says Dr. Townsend. “In these times, families need to know that as a community we support and care for them. Ethnicity, gender, age, creed nor legal stature should determine whether a person can live a healthy life.”