Proteus, Inc. and others are helping Iowa’s Migrant and Seasonal Workers with Healthcare, Education

Migrant workers being provided affordable opportunities for healthcare

As an agricultural state, Iowa relies on many migrant and seasonal workers to assist in the planting and production of many different types of products. Often times “unsung”, the Migrant Farmworkers travel from many different areas of the United States from many different parts of the world. Several of these migrant workers, living on low wages, have difficult times finding and receiving healthcare and other types of benefits that many others are able to enjoy.

Proteus Incorporated is a nonprofit organization that is funded federally through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the National Farmworker Jobs Program (NFJP). Matt Winkel, Proteus’ Regional Director, provided details about what Proteus has been able to do for more than 1,200 migrant and seasonal farmworkers of the State of Iowa.

“The Department of Labor saw that there’s a lot of needs for the actual farmworker population that weren’t being served through all of the traditional employments routes. They were excluded from a lot of different legislation, honestly. Things like overtime pay, unemployment insurance, things like that”, Winkel said. “

Proteus utilizes the help of part-time and full-time healthcare providers, a health care manager, and several other bi-lingual health aids at mobile clinics through the partnership of many local churches, community centers, and even warehouses. During their busy months, in June and July, these 8-10 workers can care for as many as 40-50 farmworkers during a single clinic. Proteus, during these months, always try to find workers by advertising through Indeed.com, the Proteus website (proteusinc.net), work force centers, and community colleges.

The mobile clinics, that can be set up in really any space, are set up to be able to have their workers gather the migrant worker patients’ health history, vital labs, be seen by a healthcare professional, and also are equipped with an on-site pharmacy.

The pharmacy receives assistance through the 340B Program that provides affordable prescription medications to these clinics such as insulin that can be extremely expensive on the market. Many of the issues presented to these staff members are typically diagnoses of diabetes and high blood pressure.

According to a part-time provider that has practiced at one of the health care clinics says that a bundle of five pre-filled pen injections that can hold approximately three-milliliters of insulin can cost as low as $.25 for the patients.

“I find that the patients are very grateful and gracious for the healthcare that they get”, said the part-time provider.

Separate of the healthcare that Proteus assists these workers with on site, bilingual, hands-on training that is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, a federal agency, that provides safety training when operating with chemicals and other hazardous materials. This is a requirement through the state of Iowa that employers who hire these workers need to provide the courses that are in step with the Worker Protection Standard (WPS).

“We are able to offer heat stress and pesticide training to the workers. One of the components of that is called WPS. All workers in the state of Iowa are required to have that training each year before they can begin work”, Winkle says.  

Proteus and these employers work hand in hand with each other to ensure that proper environmental training is provided. During these interactive courses, Proteus takes the opportunity to tell the workers about the healthcare clinics and other programs that are available to them.

“[Employers] are calling us ahead of time because they know that they need to have that training before they can take [workers] out to the fields to start working. So, they will call us and we will arrange to have a clinic site for them where any workers who would like to be seen by a provider are more than welcome to do that”, Winkel explained.

In order for workers to be able to receive these types of benefits, there are certain requirements to be achieved. Here is the list of requirements according to the Proteus website:

  • “Must be a citizen or national of the United States, a lawfully admitted permanent resident alien, refugee, refugee under asylum, parolee or other individual legally authorized to work in the United States and;
  • Must have not violated Section 3 of the Military Selective Service Act by knowingly and willfully failing to register for the Selective Service registration and;
  • Must be able to qualify as a low income individual or family.
  • Must have been an eligible farmworker during any consecutive 12 month period within the most recent 24 month period prior to application
  • Dependents or spouses may also apply under the eligible farm worker”.

Not only are the workers being provided healthcare and training, there are opportunities for workers who have put in at least two-years of farm work related tasks can also receive assistance in schooling through the help with community colleges in the state to include Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge and Iowa Lakes Community College in Emmetsburg.

“We can help them with the National Farmworker Jobs Program. We work closely with all the community colleges in the state and help to enroll in a program in one of the colleges and help with tuition”, Winkel said.

All of the services being provided by Proteus through these federally funded programs can all be seen on their website at proteusinc.net.