Special Projects Fund

Grantee Name

Rochester General Hospital

Funding Area

Special Projects Fund

Publication Date

February 2014

Grant Amount


Grant Date:

May 2009 – August 2011


Since the enactment of the U.S. Refugee Act in 1980, 3 million refugees have come to the United States, with up to 5,000 refugees arriving in New York State annually.

With 90% of these refugees resettling in upstate New York, the volume of new patients has put unprecedented financial strains on local health care systems. In response, providers have been forced to cease primary care services to refugees to avoid bankruptcy. Two health centers in Rochester closed their doors to new refugees because of the financial burden of providing services, and one center went bankrupt after developing a patient caseload of approximately 3,000 refugees.

By 2008, Rochester faced a crisis when no primary care practices were able to accept new refugees into care, despite the arrival of 800 new refugees each year. In 2009, the New York Health Foundation (NYHealth) awarded a grant to Rochester General Hospital (RGH) to ensure access to primary care for refugees.

Outcomes and Lessons Learned

  • Developed strong partnerships with refugee resettlement agencies; 
  • Provided the initial refugee health assessments and captured the federal funds associated with conducting the assessment surveys;
  • Retained Medicaid coverage for eligible refugees after their initial six-month coverage period expired;
  • Recruited new primary care practices; and
  • Coordinated transportation, interpretation, and patient navigation services.

Based on the sustainable outcomes of this pilot project, NYHealth awarded a second grant to RGH to replicate the model in other communities in upstate New York. Read a full report that examines the development, implementation, and replication of this model: “Opening Doors: A Sustainable Refugee Health Care Model.”