Going Beyond Clinical Walls with Healing Hearts, Creating
(February 2016) HealthEast Care System in St. Paul is excited to share an update about its partnership with the Center for Victims of Torture™ (CVT). Healing Hearts, Creating Hope is a multi-year collaborative project that provides onsite mental health services to Karen refugees from Burma. The primary location for these services is the HealthEast Clinic - Roselawn, which serves a large and diverse refugee population, including approximately 3,000 Karen. Seven clinic staff members are themselves Burmese refugees. Since 2010, the clinic has been working with CVT on its Healing in Partnership project to provide mental health screening for newly arrived refugees.
It is estimated that Minnesota has the largest population of Karen outside Southeast Asia, and many reside in the Twin Cities’ East Metro. CVT has documented a significant prevalence of torture among Karen refugee war trauma survivors, who often suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder and related problems. Ongoing suffering and trauma symptoms can sometimes go on for years if left untreated.
Patients that face significant socioeconomic barriers to care related to language, poverty, transportation, etc. are more likely to complete their treatment plans for both physical health and mental health problems when there is collaboration between primary care physicians and mental health professionals at the same location. In-person communications at the clinic and messaging within the electronic health record can help overcome the longstanding information-sharing challenges between primary care and non-integrated mental health services.
That’s where the Healing Hearts, Creating Hope Project comes in. This collaborative work combines CVT's expertise in culturally competent care for people who have experienced war trauma with the HealthEast Clinic’s longstanding position as a trusted provider of quality care for the Karen community. The program gives Karen refugees access to coordinated and specialized mental health and case management services from CVT psychotherapists and social workers located at HealthEast’s Roselawn Clinic.
The project measures and studies whether this model of care delivery produces improved patient outcomes and reduces health costs. This research will help determine whether similar models can be implemented in other primary care settings that serve refugees but do not have onsite mental health services. The study portion of the project is expected to be complete by late 2017.
Quantitative data is not yet available, but Roselawn Clinic’s Jim Letts, MD, commented, “I have seen healing and amazing transformation in some of my patients who had previously been unsuccessful in navigating the mental health care system. With this improvement in their mental health have come improvements in their physical health and social health as well.” Letts added, “Our hope is to continue providing services, informed by the research results, at the HealthEast Roselawn Clinic after the research part of the project is complete.”
“HealthEast Roselawn Clinic has long been committed to serving the Karen and other refugee communities as a primary care provider,” said Alison Beckman, CVT project manager and clinical supervisor. “With this project, the clinic and CVT are now working to meet the unmet mental health needs of refugees who otherwise would not have access to mental health care. By bringing these services right to their existing clinic, refugees will have new hopes for leading healthy and productive lives.”
HealthEast's Healing Hearts, Creating Hope team, pictured above L to R: Kathleen O’Donnell, MSW, LGSW; Eh Ta Zar; Jeff Walter, PhD, LP; Novia Josiah, BSW, LSW and Jenna Peterson-Vetvick, PsyD.