Haitian medical evacuees have been arriving in Georgia over the past few weeks and a DeKalb relief agency, Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Services of Atlanta (RRISA), located in Decatur, has been steadily working to assist family members who accompany them.
According to Paedia Mixon, executive director of RRISA, 32 Haitians have come to metro Atlanta in the past few weeks since the devastating earthquake hit. Most are medical evacuees who’ve been transported for medical treatment, and a few are relatives who’ve accompanied them.
“Last week people were arriving every night,” said Mixon. “This week it’s every other night.”
To aid the survivors, medical facilities have recently opened their doors in Tampa, and Boston and New York are on standby, she noted.
Mixon said her agency is assisting some of the 12 family members who need temporary housing in the area. She said they are working to place the Haitians in extended stay hotels since it’s uncertain how long their relatives will need hospital care and where they may be moved to for follow-up care. She said they try to locate housing close to the hospitals.
“We have no idea what will happen once people are discharged,” said Mixon, explaining why they aren’t seeking housing in places that require longer commitments.
Three hospitals in DeKalb County are involved in treating survivors of the earthquake—DeKalb Medical Center, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston and Emory University Hospital, according to Mixon, noting that each facility has received one to two patients. Other hospitals throughout metro Atlanta are also providing care.
Mixon said the evacuees’ medical expenses are being paid through the National Disaster Medical Service and that they may also be eligible for refugee medical assistance, which is available for as long as eight months. Most families are being granted parolee status that allows them to stay in the United States for one year.
“Some are wanting to go back earlier if they can,” said Mixon. “It depends on the level of treatment they need.”
Mixon said her agency is not getting much information on how many additional Haitians may be coming to Georgia.
“There’s a lot of rumor, not a lot of firm information,” she said.