The Apopka Family Health Center in Orange County was one of the many health care centers servicing at-risk women that received a line-item veto from the state budget last week. Apopka was denied half a million dollars, which would have been set aside to give specialized health care to at-risk migrant and seasonal farmworkers in the area.
Mark Dickinson, the CFO and interim CEO of Apopka’s health center, says the money Gov. Rick Scott vetoed was going to help the area’s “high population of migrant farmers.” He tells The Florida Independent that this mostly Hispanic farm-working population is subject to high amounts of pollution and poisonous pesticides, which have contributed to poor health conditions.
He planned on launching outreach efforts to get many of these community members diagnosed and treated for a whole host of conditions related to their work environment.
According to a recent study from the University of Central Florida’s College of Medicine, the community is facing varied health problems, many of which are attributed to “chronic pesticide exposure and insufficient pesticide safety training.” The study (which Dickinson says his program sought to address, and which you can read in full below) warned that the pesticides present “a highly prevalent problem that is related to both chronic and acute conditions and generational adverse effects.”
Dickinson says there is a high number of farmworkers in the Apopka area with Lupus and Dermatitis, both of which require a specialist to treat. Presently, the center is only able to afford primary health care.
“We wanted to provide a higher level of care,” he says, adding that providing specialty care is difficult due to its high cost.
“A lot of people would have been helped by the money,” Dickinson says. “It would have been great to get that funding.”
Scott was heard calling projects like this “special interest waste” in robo-calls funded by the Republican Party of Florida last week.
Out of the 41 migrant and farm workers interviewed for UCF’s study, 25 were women.
The study found that “the most common complaint was cold-like symptoms, followed by gastritis and musculoskeletal problems.” About 80 percent of the Hispanic migrant workers were also found to be overweight or obese, with a high incidence of blood pressure. Yet many of them face an “inability to receive consistent, affordable care while being exposed to multiple occupational hazards” due to a number of factors. These factors include “language barriers, lack of health insurance, lack of transportation, fear of immigration policies, and low socioeconomic statuses.”
Dickinson says the center will continue to serve the community by providing primary health care services to these members.
Apopka’s health center provides a long list of health services for women in the area. Dickinson says the center has a “very robust OBGYN presence” and receives Title X family planning funds.
Here is UCF’s report on the health conditions of the Apopka farm workers: