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This article was originally published on August 30, 2007.

MedStar to Serve 100 Tahirih Clients Per Year

You suffer abuse in your home country. You flee. Your life is in danger so you leave in a hurry. Your first priority is to seek refuge and legal protection. You find yourself in a new country. You do not have a home. You do not have money. You do not have friends and family to rely on. And one more urgent problem— you are diabetic. You have enough medication to last you one month.

Your husband cruelly beats you for years. He threatens to have you deported if you report him to the police. You finally gather the strength to leave him and seek protection. After you have left him, you find out you are pregnant.

If this was you, what would you do? Where would you turn to for help?

The women and girls who Tahirih represents are eligible for legal status based on gender-based violence protections under U.S. law. However, while their legal cases are being resolved, Tahirih’s clients lack health insurance or access to public benefits otherwise available to low-income patients.

Most of our clients not only lack a primary care physician, but have never even had the opportunity to see an OB/GYN. In addition to medical services, Tahirih clients are often in need of expert medical testimony to corroborate their stories of torture and abuse. This expert testimony provides critical evidence to advance their legal claims. We estimate that approximately 95% of the women and children Tahirih assists do not have primary health care, dental care, access to prescription drugs or the counseling needed to overcome the trauma they have suffered.

Tahirih conducted a survey of immigrant legal services organizations and asked them to identify the top non-legal needs of their clients in 2005-2006. Health care needs were among the top three. At a critical point in their lives, medical needs that go unaddressed can cause great suffering and may result in long-lasting consequences for our clients’ health and well-being.

For this reason, since opening its doors, Tahirih has been committed to holistically address the emergent medical and social service needs of our clients, working with individual physicians and specialists who agreed to see Tahirih clients free of charge. Beginning in January 2007, with generous support from the Consumer Health Foundation, Tahirih formalized these intermittent relationships by launching a Pro Bono Medical Network and actively working to expand it.

Modeled after Tahirih’s successful Pro Bono Attorney Network, this network of pro bono physicians and medical professionals enables our clients and their children to have access to desperately-needed medical and dental care. Tahirih acts as a resource not only to the client, but also to the doctor, providing background information on a client, scheduling an appointment, and providing the client with directions&38212;all in the hopes of alleviating the administrative burden on the physician’s office.

To date, Tahirih has recruited nine practitioners of various specialties and 21 clinics in the Washington, DC region to address the urgent needs of our clients. Thank you to the following medical professionals for their incredible dedication to Tahirih’s clients and to ensuring the growth and success of the Pro Bono Medical Network:

Dr. Randi Abramson
Dr. Anne Brown
Dr. Jennifer Chapman
Dr. Jackie Eghrari-Sabet
Dr. Michael Goldberg
Dr. Julie Gould
Dr. Khalighi Karoush
Dr. David Martin
Dr. Lorrin Martin
Dr. Kavian Milani
Dr. Kate Sugarman
Berkshire Dental

Tahirih also recently entered into an agreement with MedStar Physician Partners, a non-profit, community-based healthcare organization serving the Maryland and Washington, DC regions. Medstar has agreed to provide pro bono primary health care services to 100 Tahirih clients per year, giving our clients access to over 18 private medical offices in the Washington, DC Metro area.

This tremendous contribution of time and resources will enable our clients to see medical professionals in a timely manner and in a location that they can conveniently access. These donated professional services will provide a vital link in ensuring that the women and girls Tahirih serves can access true justice as they strive to become contributing members of our community.