Supporting Refugees and Immigrants: A Call for Increased Funding for Wellness on World Refugee Day

As we observe World Refugee Day, the Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA) reaffirms its dedication to empowering refugees and immigrants through comprehensive and culturally sensitive services. Our Center for Social and Emotional Wellbeing (CSEW) is central to this mission. Starting anew in a foreign land, separated from families and familiar surroundings, refugees strive to overcome numerous barriers, and our team is there to support them every step of the way as they adjust to life in the United States.

CSEW Services and Client Base

ReWA’s CSEW program provides three essential services, each designed to meet the distinct needs of refugees and immigrants with a focus on cultural and linguistic appropriateness:

  1. Counseling Program: Our counseling services offer individual, couples, and family counseling provided by counselors who share the cultural backgrounds and languages of their clients. This ensures that services are both linguistically and culturally appropriate. We provide counseling free of charge, funded through a King County contract and various grants. Our staff speaks over 30 languages, enabling us to serve a diverse client base effectively. Currently, the program assists about 165 clients at any time. However, the financial and insurance challenges are significant, particularly for those not covered by Medicaid or qualifying for low-income services. Contracts often fail to cover the full cost of services, affecting marginalized populations the most.
  2. Clinical Training Facility Program: This program ensures the delivery of high-quality services by preparing providers who may not have encountered counseling in their countries of origin. Key elements include:
    • Scope of Practice: Assigning cases based on counselors’ expertise and clients’ needs.
    • Graduate Education: Supporting counselors in obtaining graduate degrees and licensure to enhance their skills and diversify voices in the field.
    • Ongoing Training and Development: Weekly training meetings and clinical supervision to ensure quality care.
    • Clinical Training Manual: Developing a manual to adapt counseling modalities for the populations served.
  3. Mental Health Services Navigation Program: This program assists refugees in navigating the mental health system through individual referrals, outreach workshops, and networking with community agencies to connect clients with appropriate services.

The State of Refugee and Immigrant Healthcare

Access to quality healthcare, including mental health services, remains a critical issue for refugees and immigrants in the U.S. Many face anxiety about their uncertain futures and trauma from their forced displacement. Barriers include cultural stigma surrounding mental illness and unfamiliarity with counseling, further complicated by the scarcity of licensed providers who share the cultural and linguistic backgrounds of these populations.

Refugees often come from regions where healthcare services are limited, and mental illness is heavily stigmatized. This necessitates ongoing education about mental wellness, trauma impact, and available interventions. Western-developed therapeutic modalities may not always fit the cultural contexts of refugees. By recruiting and training providers from similar backgrounds, we enhance the relevance and effectiveness of our care.

Funding Needs for Current Demand

Meeting the existing demand for CSEW services requires substantial financial support. Contracts often fail to cover the full costs of services, leading to the closure of many mental health providers. This disproportionately affects marginalized populations. Expanded funding is essential to ensure no client is turned away due to financial constraints.

Benefits of Increased Funding

Enhanced funding would offer numerous benefits, including:

  1. Continuity of Care: Ensuring clients who transition out of lower-income healthcare plans receive uninterrupted services.
  2. Program Growth and Development: Expanding our reach to serve more individuals.
  3. Diversity in the Field: Increasing the diversity of providers, thereby improving the quality of care for all clients.
  4. Thriving Communities: Fostering healthier, happier communities with constituents from diverse backgrounds.

Call to Action

On this World Refugee Day, we call upon our community to support ReWA’s mission in several ways:

  1. Provider Engagement: We seek healthcare providers who speak Arabic, Dari, Pashto, Ukrainian, or Somali to participate in research on culturally adapting interventions or provide training to our team.
  2. Donations: Contributions to CSEW are vital for sustaining and expanding our services.
  3. Volunteerism: Join us in volunteering to make a meaningful impact in the lives of refugees and immigrants.

Your support can help ensure that every refugee and immigrant receives the comprehensive care they need to build a thriving life in their new home. For more information on how to contribute or get involved, please visit our website, or contact us directly. Together, we can make a difference.