Thanks to funding from the city of Philadelphia for $240,000, the Philadelphia Refugee Mental Health Collaborative (PRMHC), led by Lutheran Children and Family Service (LCFS), is giving access to community based cultural and linguistic mental health support to refugees. The two year grant expands an existing collaboration between Philadelphia’s refugee resettlement agencies witch include LCFS, Nationalities Service Center (NCS) and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and Council Migration Service of Philadelphia (HIAS and Council PA), newly arriving ethnic community leaders and health providers, Nemours Pediatrics and the Belmont Center for Comprehensive Treatment, as well as BuildaBridge, to provide community and culturally appropriate therapeutic intervention classes.

Innovation and collaboration are two significant themes highlighted by the newly established Philadelphia Refugee Mental Health Collaborative (PRMHC) of providers who are seeking efficient and effective alternatives for managing the transitions of newly arriving refugees.

“The purpose of this collaborative is to support and strengthen refugee communities while creating a coordinated system of mental health screenings and referrals to both non-traditional ethnic services as well as mainstream services within 30 days of a refugee arriving in Philadelphia,” says Janet Panning, Refugee Programs Director of Lutheran Children and Family Service (LCFS). Janet continues, “Our goal is to connect people to a formally structured and sustainable network of health providers who understand the issues refugees experience during their resettlement.”

Melissa Fogg, Immigrant Mental Health Specialist, is managing the multi-disciplinary group of mental health and medical providers, resettlement agencies and community art groups in Philadelphia. “I believe that the collaborative community-building, creative arts and therapeutic projects will help refugee families feel supported during their resettlement period and learn positive coping mechanisms for managing acculturation stress,” says Melissa.

The first two initiatives were to establish a direct referral system with two major Philadelphia mental health providers skilled in working with immigrant populations and the implementation of a screening tool, translated into the various languages which will be used in a primary care setting. The collaborators have also implemented bi-weekly art therapy groups for children and adults and a Photo Voice project which is being supported by Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens and Jefferson University Hospital’s Department of Family and Community Medicine.

In your opinion, what are the most difficult challenges faced by refugees arriving in America?

One Reply to “LCFS Leads Philadelphia Refugee Mental Health Collaborative”

  1. Refugees and asylum seekers have complex health and social care needs due to the experiences that lead to forced migration as well as the experience of seeking asylum itself.

    Language is one major barrier for refugees and asylum seekers in general practice. This matters because patients with limited English are less likely to engender empathic response from doctors, establish rapport in these relationships, receive sufficient information about their health or participate in decision making. This barrier is shared by refugees and asylum seekers with other migrants but, arguably, refugees and asylum seekers have a specific, complexity to their health and social care needs, which means that their inability to communicate full details of their medical and social history can have specific, negative implications.

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