LATCH helps county’s uninsured with medical issues

By Jackson Foster
UNC Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE

“70 percent of the Latino community is Durham County is uninsured.”

Stephanie Triantafillou is the coordinator at Local Access to Coordinated Healthcare (LATCH), a program within the Duke University Medical System. She is at the City of Durham’s Annual Latino Festival, telling local residents about the services that LATCH provides.

LATCH employees and a friend stand in front of the LATCH booth at the City of Durham’s Latino Festival. From left to right: Georgina Perez, friend; Stephanie Triantafillou, LATCH coordinator; Maricela Caceres, case manager; and Bettina Karpathian, nurse. (Photo by Jackson Foster)

The booth was packed with a plethora of brochures, Triantafillou looks at them smiles, and motions to her daughter, approximately 10. “She’s helping me.”

The brochures cover a wide range of topics, mostly related to health care access.

LATCH mainly works with any uninsured residents of Durham County to help them navigate the health care system in Durham, explains Triantafillou.

“We’re open Monday through Friday during regular business hours.” Triantafillou says that this helps achieve the goal of helping people use the Durham County health care system because these are the hours that they operate during.

“We try to help them understand the U.S. medical system,” she says, “Things like: they need to arrive to an appointment 15 minutes early.”

LATCH is celebrating its 10 year anniversary this year, and over the course of those years a lot of things have changed significantly for LATCH, says Triantafillou.

Originally funded by a grant, the money ran out in 2006. LATCH’s funding was then taken over by the Duke University Health System.

They now have 10 employees, all of whom are bilingual in English and Spanish except one.  “We try not to interpret,” Triantafillou says. “We try to empower people.”  This means helping clients understand the resources available to them through the health care providers, this includes translation services.

LATCH strives to be integrated into the community, Triantafillou says, and the help they offer goes beyond just health care. With their office located in downtown Durham, it is easily accessible to most residents of the city, but Triantafillou explains that the employees of LATCH only see a minority of their clients in their offices.

“We do home visits, or meet them somewhere in the community.” She says they have seen patients everywhere from El Centro Hispano to McDonald’s. “Wherever they feel comfortable meeting – we want to bring dialogue into the community.”

Triantafillou also talks about how LATCH has expanded to more than just health care access. Though it is not their mainfocus they will help people pay for health care when they can, or try and help them find alternative forms of funding.

They also work with local churches and other people in the community to help people with basic needs such as clothing, shelter, food and utilities.

Maricela Caceres, a case manager at LATCH, says that most of their referrals come through community partners, especially El Centro Hispano.

Caceres works with people to help make sure that they are getting what they need, and then following up with them after if it is necessary.

Triantafillou thinks a large part of the increase in clients is due to the recent economic troubles, mainly rising unemployment. Besides that though they have seen an increase in the number of people who come back to LATCH after using their services once.

“We’re definitely integrated into the community,” said Triantafillou.

If you are uninsured and live in Durham County and would like help with the health care system, Local Access to Coordinated Healthcare can be reached at 919-613-6509.