New York's public hospitals have treated 12 migrant children in its emergency departments who were recently separated from their parents and placed in short-term foster care, NYC Health & Hospitals CEO Dr. Mitchell Katz said Thursday at Bellevue Hospital.
Eight of the children were treated at North Central Bronx Hospital and four received care at Bellevue in Manhattan, Katz said.
Dr. Daran Kaufman, director of pediatric emergency services at North Central Bronx, said the doctors treated the patients for conditions including asthma, constipation and depression.
"Although we've been able to treat their medical diagnoses, they are sad and despondent and we are unable to treat the emotional scars they're presenting with," she said.
Katz said those were only the children that the health system has identified to date as being separated from their parents.
"There are undoubtedly more because our commitment is to serving them, not interrogating the circumstances that brings them to our facilities," Katz said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that an estimated 700 immigrant children have been brought to foster care agencies in the state after being separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Mayor Bill de Blasio said 239 of the children were being cared for by Cayuga Centers in Harlem, which helps connect children with short-term foster care.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday to halt the separation of children from parents who illegally enter the U.S. and would detain families together where appropriate. The Trump administration has still not indicated whether—and how—the more than 2,300 children who have already been separated from their parents will be reunited with them.
Katz said the health system recognized the need for an organized response, after noticing a growing number of cases of children arriving with government-appointed guardians to its emergency departments.
Katz said in a letter to staff that the health system had treated children as young as 5 as well as teenagers, including one who had "suicidal ideations" after being separated from his mother.
"We know the health risks associated with tearing apart children from their families are very real, including an increased risk of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress and attention-deficit disorder," Katz wrote.
Dr. Herminia Palacio, deputy mayor for health and human services, said she was "profoundly concerned about the lifelong effects" of the policy of separating children from their parents.
"We know that this kind of toxic stress can show up decades later," she said, noting that it could manifest itself as both mental health issues and chronic diseases.
She said the city has reached out to the major foster care agencies to "discuss and expedite health services" for the children, such as immunizations, mental health services and translation services for foster families.
"We will work with providers to help them take care of these children," she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
"NYC Health & Hospitals says it is treating migrant children in ERs" originally appeared in Crain's New York Business.