Hundreds of forced migrants resettle across Alaska every year from a wide range of countries. Forced migrants include refugees, asylees, asylum-seekers, and people with special immigrant visas. Many need access to mental health care. However, services are limited for many reasons. In a 2015 needs assessment, Alaska’s mental health practitioners reported that while they were interested in serving forced migrants, they did not feel able to do so. Perceived barriers to providing mental health services to refugees included lack of training, experience, and supervision in providing therapy across cultures, and general concerns regarding limited cultural competence.
Working Alongside Refugees in Mental Health (WARM) arose from this need. WARM is aimed at increasing forced migrants’ access to culturally congruent, linguistically appropriate, evidence-based mental health care via an innovative provider network. There are three components to WARM’s work.
TRAINING: WARM organizes free trainings on topics mental health practitioners need to know to effectively serve refugees. Past trainings have included foundations, working with interpreters, and Narrative Exposure Therapy. Practitioners who attend the trainings are eligible for Continuing Education credits. Through trainings, we also aim to build a sense of community and mutual support among mental health practitioners serving forced migrant clients.
RESOURCES: WARM organizes resources for mental health practitioners. Many resources are aimed at supporting providers' knowledge and skill development. Other resources are community resources that are adjunctive to mental health services so that practitioners can easily identify resources their clients need.
OUTREACH AND REFERRALS: WARM is dedicated to ensuring that forced migrants throughout the state have access to quality mental health care in the languages that they speak regardless of financial situation. WARM conducts outreach with forced migrants, providing information on mental health and accessing mental health services. Finally, WARM helps to pair mental health practitioners with forced migrant clients in need of services.