WSPF: Review of 2016 and current call to support refugee mental health
by Jennifer Rough, Ph.D.
In January 2016, I was honored to assume the role of Chair of the Washington State Psychological Foundation from Drs. Sara Smucker-Barnwell and Sarah Sullivan-Singh. This role is a new one for me and continues to provide an exciting opportunity to connect with fellow psychologists and mental health professionals whose hearts are in community advocacy. I am grateful to be working alongside Dr. Meghan Juretic (Treasurer) and Dr. Josie Tracy (Secretary) as well as our talented Board members. We would like to let you know what we have been up to, and to highlight our upcoming events.
Last Winter, the WSPF hosted a successful Toy Drive benefitting families in need and victims of domestic violence in Kitsap County through partnering with the Kitsap YWCA and Kitsap Community Resources. Last Spring, we teamed up with WSPA for our annual support of the Washington Chapters of the National Alliance of Mental Illness through participation in the local NAMI walk. Together, WSPA and WSPF surpassed our fund-raising goal for the first time. Thank you to all for the support! We plan to raise the bar even higher in 2017.
The mission of the WSPF is to empower vulnerable populations in Washington State by promoting community resilience through partnering with local agencies for education and financial support. We will be proposing programs to affect change across communities, such as this year’s proposal for a federal funding to support a scholarship program to increase access to mental health care for underserved populations. In addition to these broader programs, we have decided to focus our annually recurrent events, such as the Winter Drive, to benefit an identified population in heightened need each year, to increase our impact within our communities.
To help respond to the current refugee crisis, we have decided to dedicate the 2016-2017 Winter Drive to support asylum seekers in their resettlement here in Washington State, and to highlight our local services and need for volunteers to help.
Spotlight: Refugee and Asylee Mental Health
We are grateful to work in a state that remains steadfast in its warm reception of refugees, as publicly announced by Governor Jay Inslee last November. In response to the Syrian refugee crisis, Governor Inslee stated:
“Washington will continue to be a state that welcomes those seeking refuge from persecution, regardless of where they come from or the religion they practice. We have been and will continue to be a state
that embraces compassion and eschews fear mongering..”
Governor Jay Inslee, November 16, 2015
Estimated last December, King County expected around 2,000 new refugees in 2016, with 100-200 from Syria. Overall, Washington State has welcomed over 32,000 refugees since 2003, ranking as the 7th highest state refugee recipient among the U.S. States.
WSPF is currently partnering with the International Counseling and Community Services Program at Lutheran Community Services Norwest (LCSNW), a multidisciplinary program providing specialty care for refugees, asylum seekers, and torture survivors resettling in Seattle and SeaTac. ICCS serves an average of 5,000 refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants annually, and runs one of the 31 nationally-recognized specialized torture recovery programs, with funding from the US Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Refugee Resettlement. ICCS provides evidence-based mental health and social work services, including trauma-focused therapy and culturally-sensitive cognitive behavioral therapy, offered in 16 languages. Their interdisciplinary network includes partnerships with Harborview’s International Medicine Clinic for primary care services, United Way for coordination of asylum seekers, and the Red Cross to help asylum seekers locate family abroad. They also run a foster program for refugee and immigrant children who are orphaned or separated and unable to reconnect with their families: www.refugeechildren.net.
Extremely impressed by the quality and extent of the ICCS services, I recently met with Beth Farmer, LICSW and Director of the ICCS to coordinate how WSPF can be of help.
Beth emphasized the unique vulnerability and unmet needs of the adult asylum seekers. Asylum seekers often arrive with only the clothes on their back, few belongings, and few connections as many have fled their home countries for safety on short notice. Further, they are not eligible to work or receive unemployment benefits in the U.S. during the asylum evaluation process, which typically takes 6 months.
Opportunities for WSPA Members to Get Involved
2016 – 2017 Winter Drive: Welcome Asylum Seekers to Washington State
We are devoting our 2016-2017 Winter Drive to support asylum seekers resettling in Washington State. We will be partnering with Lutheran Community Services Northwest to provide adult asylum seekers with living essentials to ease their resettlement. We will be accepting donations in November and December, including non-perishable food, winter clothing, and home essentials for adult asylum seekers. Please begin collecting the most commonly needed items: winter coats, blankets, Safeway gift cards, and non-perishable food.
We will send out a reminder email to the WSPA listserv within the next two weeks with specific donation drop-off dates and locations.
Volunteer Opportunity to conduct Asylum Evaluations (1-2 per year)
Beth Farmer, LICSW, has further asked us to include this posting for volunteer clinicians needed to conduct asylum evaluations. We are happy to promote the following announcement to the WSPA community, and hope that we may all do our part.
*All licensed clinical volunteers are welcome. Volunteers may sign up for as few as 1-2 asylum evaluations per year.
Human Rights Volunteers Needed
Northwest Health and Human Rights is seeking licensed clinicians to join its volunteer human rights network, receive training and conduct a minimum of 1-2 (more if you are available) psychological evaluations for asylum seekers per year.
Asylum evaluations are conducted through Norwest Health and Human Rights (NWHHR), a collaboration project between Lutheran Community Services Northwest, Harborview Medical Center, and Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. In 2012, these agencies banded together to ensure that survivors of torture received the medical, mental and physical care they needed to heal from the past and embrace the future. A large part of their work is helping those seeking asylum for persecution, torture and other types of oppression secure safety in the United States. In just over four years, NWHHR has worked with over 700 clients from 68 different countries.
NWHHR has been unable to meet the demand for asylum evaluation requests since last Fall due to loss of funding at a national agency previously providing this service. There is an average of 300-400 new asylum cases granted each in greater Seattle area each year.
NWHHR is currently looking for licensed clinicians to conduct psychological evaluations for asylum seekers. The court finds these evaluations very valuable and they often help provide credibility to an applicant’s claim. Currently, NWHHR has received more asylum requests than it can fill and is looking for new clinicians to join its network. NWHHR will provide a one-time, required training.
The next NWHHR training will be held on December 3, 2016:
Presenter: Beth Farmer, LICSW Director of Refugee and Asylum Services Lutheran Community Services NW
When: December 3, 2016 from 9:00am to 12:30pm
Where: The Village at Angle Lake, 4040 S 188th Street, SeaTac, WA 98188
Interested clinicians, please RSVP to email@example.com. NWHHR is also happy to answer any questions you may have.
Thank you for supporting WSPF in helping our community thrive! We welcome you to join our team, and/or support our causes by donating to WSPF. We also welcome emailed suggestions by WSPA members for project ideas and/or populations of need to support.
The more the merrier, and the greater our impact when you join us!
Contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Like us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/WSPFoundation
Jennifer Rough, Ph.D.
Chair, Washington State Psychological Foundation