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Transcript: Mayor Eric Adams Celebrates the end of a Health Care Week of Action and Encourages New Yorkers to get Covered with GetCoveredNYC

July 30, 2022

Helen Arteaga, CEO, Elmhurst Hospital: Good morning, everyone, or good afternoon. Welcome everybody. And I'm super excited to have you here today. I am Helen Arteaga Landaverde. I'm the chief executive officer for New York City Health in Elmhurst. I'm thrilled to have you here today in our beloved hospital. We are so excited to close out Healthcare Week of Action with our partners...


Arteaga: Yes, Woohoo!

Arteaga: with our partners, New York City Cares and Get Covered NYC. Yes!


Arteaga: At Elmhurst and at all New York City Health and Hospital facilities, we do not turn not one single patient away. We encourage everyone from our communities to seek care without fear. Through NYC Cares, New Yorkers can have access to health coverage regardless of immigration status and ability to pay. If you are a new patient in New York City Cares, you get an appointment within two weeks. That is true evidence, not only of commitment, but of action. A key element of our approach and success is that we provide this care, not only with excellent clinical access, but also culturally sensitive. More than a million New York City Health and Hospital patients speak over 200 languages. Interesting fact, here at Elmhurst Hospital, we speak more languages than Google. Google only speaks 109. Yes. Elmhurst speaks 128. I think they have some catching up to do.

Arteaga: But really, I'm super grateful for everyone that's here today and this commitment to healthcare. I've seen it firsthand, how it can impact someone's life. I'm a first generation immigrant. I'm a patient of Elmhurst. And I'm now its CEO. Without good healthcare and being healthy, I wouldn't be standing here today. So I'm super grateful.

Arteaga: I really want to thank you, Mayor Eric Adams, for your leadership and ensuring that all New York City Health employees have an amazing job. But also, more importantly, that every New York City resident and everyone living within our walls has access to healthcare. And I really want to thank you for that.

Arteaga: I want to thank Adrienne Lever from the Mayor's Public Engagement Unit and Dr. Jiménez, who also was born here at Elmhurst, for their efforts to connect New Yorkers to affordable healthcare access.

Arteaga: Lastly, I want to thank all the people that made this week possible, because to get this done takes a lot of people and a lot of energy as you can see here. I want to thank the Mayor's Public Engagement Unit outreach specialists. I want to thank our future public health advocates from the CUNY Career Launch interns, which is about 100 of you guys. And I want to thank all of our partners who are here today from the press to everyone who's tabling, thank you for your commitment to healthcare and to our beloved city.

Arteaga: And now I will pass this along to Adrienne Lever, the executive director of the Mayor's Public Engagement Unit. Thank you and welcome.

Adrienne Lever, Executive Director, Mayor's Public Engagement Unit: Helen, thank you so much for having us here today. I am so thrilled to be here at Elmhurst with our partners at NYC Care, Health and Hospitals, and of course our mayor, Eric Adams. My name is Adrienne Lever, and I am the executive director of the Mayor's Public Engagement Unit, which oversees the Get Covered Program, all of our staff here today.

Lever: My team spends every single day out in communities, connecting people to the services that they need and making sure that they have everything they need to get through the enrollment and application process. Through this work, we're able to see firsthand the ways in which city, state and federal programs can serve New Yorkers in need. There are so many resources for people who are struggling with housing instability, with financial hardship, and when it comes to healthcare, we have low cost and even free options through the programs like NYC Care.

Lever: It is incredible to see the ways in which New York City serves New Yorkers, but the problem is with the city of this size and so many resources available, it can be really hard to know where to turn. And that is why our staff are here to make that process easier. Since January alone, our Get Covered team over here has reached out to over 40,000 New Yorkers to have conversations about healthcare. And our tenant team, some of the staff are here also today, have had over 38,000 conversations with tenants about housing instability, about opportunities to get rent relief for programs like with seniors who need to stabilize their rent to stay in their homes.

Lever: And we also, through projects like our amazing CUNY program, have been able to add capacity to do outreach around things like the Affordable Connectivity Program that are getting people access to discounts for internet. We've also done work around Fair Fares to make sure that we have access to transit. And the reason we do this work is because we know at PEU that healthcare is not just about having access to a doctor. It is about having all of the resources that you need to live a life of dignity and respect. And we're so grateful to our team at Get Covered to doing that work every single day. Many of our interns are here, raise your hands. CUNY interns. Woo!

Lever: Our interns and our staff in the Public Engagement Unit are out all summer, not just talking about healthcare, but also all of these other benefits that are available, providing comprehensive benefit screenings to New Yorkers. And then our specialists who speak over 20 languages are going to follow up and make sure that everybody gets the help that they need throughout the entire process.

Lever: We know that a strong government is not built by waiting for those in need to come to us. It is our obligation to go to you, to show up at your doors, in your communities, on your phones, to make sure that this process is working with the city is seamless. And we know there's so much more work to do. It is not done, but I'm incredibly grateful to be working with an administration that is working so hard and dedicated to making this process easier for everyone. So I'm thrilled to pass the microphone over to our mayor, Eric Adams, who's leading that charge.

Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Mayor Adams: This is the Public Engagement Unit and our CUNY interns. And I know sometimes this is like a Karate Kid moment when he was supposed to wash the car, then he learned that he was actually learning karate moves in the process. And what our CUNY interns, what you're doing — I'm a two-time CUNY grad from New York City College of Technology and John Jay College — and what you are doing is that you are harnessing the real education. Education is not what takes place in a sterilized environment of a classroom. Anyone could be academically smart, but you are becoming emotionally intelligent. When you knock on the door and you're sitting face-to-face with someone who's experiencing a hardship, who's going through a difficult time, you are peeking into the lives of everyday New Yorkers and you're removing the barrier of leaning into healthy discomfort.

Mayor Adams: I tell people all the time, I'm socially awkward. I'm an introvert. I'm extremely shy. It's hard for me to engage with people. But when I leaned into that discomfort and communicate with people, it made me a better human being. And at the beginning of your lives, you are engaging in people. There's nothing more difficult than engaging with a stranger. But you are not only engaging with the stranger, you are also giving them the things they need.

Mayor Adams: Do you know how many people don't access services because of a language barrier, or they're afraid of government, they're afraid of their status? My mother used to go and she would walk out of the city agency and say, "I would rather go without, than feel the way I feel. I feel more broken before I walked into the governmental agency than when I walked out."

Mayor Adams: And so what you are doing, you just see it as, "Hey, we're volunteering and we're helping." No, you're not. Not just volunteering. You're the difference between people being able to go and get healthcare if they need it. You're the difference that people who would have to jump to turnstile, because they don't have enough to pay for their swipes by telling them about the reduced fare MetroCard. You're the difference in telling people there is help if you are about to lose your home.

Mayor Adams: And so what you are doing, you are helping New Yorkers. And I know just by looking at your faces, you know how important it is, because many of you are probably first generation arrivals to this city. You know what your families went through. You know what it is to have English as a second language. You know what it is to be denied. You know what it is to walk into a governmental building and not have the basic help to fill out a form. So you are not only helping others, but you're helping yourselves, because there's a process that we all need as we transform into the New Yorkers we want.

Mayor Adams: Out of all of my units and agencies, this is the agency and unit that I just adore, the Public Engagement Unit. The Public Engagement Unit. You are publicly engaging with people who have given up on government, they've given up on themselves, they even have given up on hope. You knock on that door, you ring that bell, you talk to someone, you're planting the seed of hope. They're now thinking differently about themselves.

Mayor Adams: And so I just really thank you. I want to go out with you sometime. I want people to see that their mayor also cares. I want to walk the streets with you. This is the best part of the job. The best part of the job is that one-on-one. And I encourage you as you go home at night, make an entry in your journal. Talk about the stories you had, that someone that didn't have healthcare, you signed them up. Talk about the person you spoke with. Start documenting this wonderful experience that you are having. And don't allow it just to be a passing moment. Enjoy this moment. Soak this up.

Mayor Adams: My job is hard. Being a mayor of the City of New York is one of the most complicated and difficult jobs you could have in government. But I say every day that I wake up, "When does the hard part start?" Because it's not hard for me. I love every moment being the mayor — every moment, being the mayor. And I want the challenges that it offers. Love every moment, being a CUNY intern. Love every moment of going through this experience. Leave this summer different. Leave this summer with a true purpose. And to this team, that's here, Elmhurst Hospital, everybody I meet, they tell me they were born here. To this whole team, this is the best part of our city.

Mayor Adams: And I want to end on this note. I was teaching a young man when I was the borough president and even when I was a senator, I was teaching him the pronunciation of words. And one of the keys was to put the hyphen on the right letter so you can pronounce the word correctly. And he noticed, he says, "So based on where you put the hyphen is how you pronounce the word."

Mayor Adams: That is an analogy to our life. We put the hyphen on the wrong moments in our lives. And so we have a mispronunciation of our lives. Put that hyphen in the beauty of our lives. Start pronouncing your life based on the beauty of it. Not based on the hardship, not based on a difficult moment, put the hyphen in your life in the right place. And you are going to pronounce your life with the beauty that it has to offer. That's what I want to uplift. Not where we disagree, but where we agree and what we could get done because we agree.

Mayor Adams: It's a great moment for our city, that we can sit down together and say, "Let's go help those who need help, and meet them where they are, and take them where they ought to be." I'm excited about this unit. I'm excited about the young people. I'm excited about your future. I'm excited about where this city is going. Don't let anyone kid you, our city is invincible. We are invincible, not because of the Empire State Building, Broadway, all the other great things. We're invincible because like Snapple soft drink stated, “We are made of the best stuff on Earth.” We're New Yorkers. Thank you very much.

Lever: Thank you so much, mayor. This job is rewarding, but we all know that it's also exhausting. It's hot out there. And I know that the team really appreciates those words of inspiration. I'd like to pass it over to Dr. Jonathan Jiménez, who is the director of NYC Cares.

Dr. Jonathan Jiménez Pérez, Executive Director, NYC Care: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you so much. I'm very excited to be here. It's really an honor. As Helen shared, I was born here, so it's kind of a coming full circle. I'm Jonathan Jiménez, I'm the executive director of the NYC Care Program. And NYC Care really is the program that welcomes folks who are excluded from insurance, because of their immigration status, because of their ability to pay. So NYC Care says, "Hey, you have a right to healthcare if you're a New Yorker. So come enroll."

Dr. Jiménez Pérez: And we already have, next week, we're going to hit three years of the program's existence. Big round of applause for that. And we've enrolled over 110,000 members who've made hundreds of thousands of appointments. We already have the data to show that folks, after they enroll in the program, we're seeing improvement in their diabetes, improvement in their hypertension, but we know we needed to do more. And so this administration, a few months ago, eliminated the six month residency requirement because they said, "You know what," actually the mayor was the first to say, "If diabetes can't wait six months, we shouldn't wait six months either," right?

Dr. Jiménez Pérez: But the most powerful thing for me as a family physician is the stories of my patients, members who come to me. I had a patient recently, single mother of two, who had developed severe lower back pain, constant. Had two children. She was worried, tearful every day, worried about what would happen if her back pain didn't allow her to work, what would happen to her children? And then her friends, friends like you, told her about NYC Care that she could go enroll, no matter her immigration status, we're taking care of her. Her back pain is starting to improve. And you could just see the weight lift off her shoulders that she knew someone had her back. She knew that New York City had her back. And she knew, I'm going to share with you this card, this membership card, that with this membership card, she could go anywhere in New York City Health and Hospitals and get the care that she needs, including at Elmhurst Hospital.

Dr. Jiménez Pérez: We have 60,000 members that Helen told me just at Elmhurst Hospital. So I'm really thrilled about this partnership. And I think this is just the beginning, right? So thank you so much to Get Covered, the Public Engagement Unit, the CUNY interns, I was out there pounding the pavement with you all. It is hard work. In fact, talking to strangers, getting them to open up. But people were excited to hear what we had to say, that we were welcoming them into all sorts of benefits the city has to offer.

Dr. Jiménez Pérez: And I'm looking forward to many more partnerships moving forward, because I know that there are more people like my patient who need to hear that welcoming word, that invited into all of the benefits, including healthcare through NYC Care. So if anyone who needs access to healthcare, remember we have a 24-7 hotline, 646-692-2273.

Dr. Jiménez Pérez: Thank you, Mayor Adams for your leadership, making sure that everyone has access to healthcare. Thank you to Adrienne Lever, look forward to many more partnerships. And thank you to Helen for all your work, making sure this hospital runs as seamlessly as it does. So thank you.

Lever: Thank you so much, Dr. Jiménez. I now have the distinct pleasure of welcoming one of our own at the Public Engagement Unit. She's a Get Covered specialist who has an incredible personal story and a story about supporting one of her clients recently, Tania Navas.

Tania Navas, GetCovered NY: Good afternoon. Today is a privilege to be standing here, representing one of the Public Engagement Units. One of the team, which is Get Covered NYC. And to share the work we do, which is to assist and educate about the different healthcare options New York City residents have access to.

Navas: I see Get Covered NYC as the team that opens the door to our clients. Not only to be enrolled with NYC Care, or health insurance, but as the door that opens and creates trust between the city services and your city residents. Especially our most vulnerable and underserved communities.

Navas: Recently, we received good news from one of the many clients we serve, Sandra, whom I had the opportunity to assist. Sandra was referred to our program because she was diagnosed with cancer. When I first talked to her, she was worried, she was uncertain, she didn't know if she qualified for her treatments. I assured her she will be treated regardless of any immigration status by enrolling with NYC Care. After educating her about the program and other services available, she was enrolled and now she's ready to receive treatment at a city hospital.

Navas: Today, I just want to share how she describes her process. And I quote, "More than connecting me with health coverage through NYC Care, she gave me baby steps about how to find treatment, to feel the way I do right now. I feel safe.”

Navas: I feel proud to be part of a Get Covered NYC because that's one of our goals. We want to make sure New York City residents seeking assistance feel safe and understood during the process. The Get Covered NYC team is as diverse as our city is. Our background is so different. The different languages we speak and the experiences we have, this gives us the advantage to connect and to understand our communities so they can feel safe and assured they will receive the healthcare services they need.

Navas: Get Covered NYC team is here to help you to understand, to educate you about the healthcare options. So if one day you receive a phone call from us, or if you see us in your neighborhood, please be assured we are reaching out to help. [Speaks in Spanish]. Thank you.

Lever: You so much, Tanya. I'm now going to invite our mayor back up to introduce our next two speakers.

Mayor Adams: Yes. Yes. Our great Council members. First, Councilman Moya, who was born in this hospital. All right, Councilman Moya.


Mayor Adams: And finally, our amazing Health chair in the City Council, Councilwoman Schulman.


Mayor Adams: Thank you.


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