Santa Clara County has opened a Vietnamese-speaking health clinic

After years of planning and months of delay, the service center dedicated to the Vietnamese community has opened its own clinic to help address the health gap among the underprivileged population in the South Bay.

The 37,000-square-foot, three-story building at 2410 Senter Rd. San Jose aims to serve as one store providing multiple health and human services to more than 140,000 Vietnamese residents. San Jose has the largest Vietnamese enclave of any city in the U.S. outside of Vietnam.

Santa Clara County officials, who have joined state and local lawmakers, on Sunday hosted a gala opening ceremony with a lion dance to announce new health services, including dental care, medical labs, mental health programs and primary care services such as blood tests, biopsies, procedures and vaccines. Several hundred Vietnamese residents across the South Bay attended to celebrate the plans.

David Te, a senior resident who came to the center Monday for a free lunch, said he saw many in the community overtake routine health checks because of the language barrier, costs and the long wait for queues. Te said he had to go into the emergency room several times over the years because he had to wait weeks for a doctor’s appointment.

“This type of service in a location like this is very much needed for the community,” Te told San Jose Spotlight. “I did not check out the clinic, but from what I have seen, I think it will help a lot.”

The first of its kind

The U.S. Vietnam Service Center, the first of its kind in the U.S., was designed based on feedback from the community and took nearly a decade to complete under the leadership of then-State Inspector Senator Dave Cortez and Inspector Cindy Chavez.

Prior to construction, Santa Clara County hosted a number of community meetings to get feedback from residents and stakeholders in the Vietnamese community – including a shortage of culturally talented district workers who can speak Vietnamese. The county then planned the building and its plans based on those comments, officials said.

The health clinic, located on the second floor of the building, has set itself the goal of increasing access to medical care for the Vietnamese population. According to a district study, the population faces more significant socioeconomic challenges and gaps than other large ethnic groups. About 13 percent of Vietnamese families live below the poverty line in Santa Clara County and many are without health insurance, officials said. These challenges, as well as language barriers, have limited their health and well-being opportunities and resources.

Vietnamese women in general are five times more likely than any other ethnic and racial group to develop cervical cancer in the United States. One in eight Vietnamese residents also carries hepatitis B – a virus that affects one in 1,000 of the general population. In Santa Clara County, more Vietnamese American adults have been diagnosed with diabetes than all American Asians, Pacific Islanders and Caucasians in general.

Trin Nguyen, a senior resident of San Jose for more than 20 years, was among the first to visit the clinic on Monday morning. Nguyen said he had recently learned about his center and clinic and wanted to schedule a blood test for his wife.

“This is my first time here, and I did not know what to expect,” Nguyen told San Jose Spotlight in Vietnamese. “They led me through all the stages and carefully explained to me the process – all in Vietnamese. It helped a lot.”

The service center also offers a number of social services such as lunchtime programs for seniors, ballroom dance classes and yoga sessions since its soft opening last October.

“It’s 10 out of 10 for me,” San Jose, a resident of San Jose, Hong Tran, who comes to the center five days a week, told San Jose. “Everyone is so nice and helpful. If I have a question, they will find out the answer for me.”

All three veteran Vietnamese residents think the new clinic will encourage more people to take care of their health.

The clinic, equipped with staff who can speak both Vietnamese and Spanish, also serves the general population in East San Jose. East Side resident Alison Rice arrived at the center Monday morning to check with her doctor.

“I do not know much about this center before today, but it is a very nice building,” Rice said. “I think the plan will be good for the region.”

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