New Americans with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are a significantly underserved community in New York State (NY) facing complex barriers accessing IDD services and fully integrating into their communities. New American communities lack connections with IDD service systems and struggle to find culturally and linguistically accessible information about disability services and resources. New Americans may be fearful of engaging with service providers, especially if they lack lawful immigration status and are undocumented. In acknowledgement of these barriers, NY implemented an initiative to create a navigator model that is the first of its kind in the nation. The Initiative is named the Ramirez June Initiative (Initiative) which was created in 2019 to build capacity at the local and state level to better serve new Americans with IDD. In this article, we outline the background, context, and key components of this navigator model. By providing a comprehensive and detailed overview of the Initiative, we hope to support the model’s replication across the nation, while considering local strengths and needs.

Plain Language Summary

“New Americans” are individuals born outside of the United States (U.S.) who now live in the U.S., and their families. There are about 4.4 million new Americans in New York State, or almost a quarter of New York’s population (American Immigration Council, 2020). New Americans with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) face barriers in accessing disability services. Disability services in New York include care management, employment, housing services, and more. Resources and information about IDD services are often not translated into other languages. Outreach to inform new Americans about available services is limited. New Americans with IDD may also face cultural barriers, like stigma within their family or community, and barriers based on their immigration status. These barriers have led to disparities, or differences, in access to IDD services for new Americans. In focus groups, new Americans reported not being connected with interpreters, not having documents translated, and facing long wait times in connecting with IDD services. Two New York agencies, the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (DDPC) and the Office for New Americans (ONA), partnered to create a navigator program called the Ramirez June Initiative. The Initiative is named after two new American families who shared their stories with the DDPC and ONA. This program helps new Americans know more about IDD services and information by doing outreach, conducting presentations, and raising awareness of these barriers for disability service provider organizations. The Ramirez June Initiative has helped new Americans to have better access to these important resources. We recommend that other states adopt the model described here in their efforts to help new Americans access IDD services.

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