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Portland Press Heard: $2 million grant targets refugee mental health

By September 28, 2016October 26th, 2016News, News-Events

Spurwink Receives $2 million Federal Grant to Provide Mental Health Services to Refugee Children.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) awarded Spurwink Services the federal grant to support a school- and community-based Refugee Mental Health Project in Biddeford, Lewiston/Auburn, and Greater Portland. Spurwink is the only organization in Northern New England (ME, VT, NH) to receive this grant. Only 51 grants were awarded nationwide.

“Spurwink is extremely grateful to have this opportunity to employ our behavioral health expertise to meet the serious mental health needs of refugee children in Maine,” notes Spurwink President and CEO Eric Meyer, LCSW, MBA. “Many immigrants come to our state having faced significant trauma in their journey here. This project is designed to meet their needs in a way that will promote cross-cultural understanding and positive change in the lives of the children, their families and their communities.”

Spurwink will partner with the Refugee Trauma and Resiliency Center at Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH), Immigrant Resource Center of Maine, public schools, and grassroots organizations. The project will use cultural brokers and mental health clinicians to engage refugee families and leaders; lead school-based prevention groups for refugee girls and boys; and provide home- and community-based mental health services for youth with significant trauma-related symptoms and their families.

During the first year of the five-year grant, the project will be implemented in Lewiston/Auburn, followed by Biddeford and Greater Portland in subsequent years. The goals of the program are to assist refugee children and families by reducing resettlement stressors. Spurwink in partnership with schools will utilize the expertise of cultural brokers to offer a specialized curriculum for supportive school based groups. An evidence-based healthcare model, Trauma Systems Therapy for Refugees (TST-R), will be employed. Spurwink estimates that this project will serve an average of 400 individuals per year—a total of 2,000 over five years.

This Refugee Mental Health Project is based on Spurwink’s experience serving refugee families and is in addition to Spurwink’s numerous specialized programs supporting the behavioral health and educational needs of children, adolescents, adults, and families in Maine. Spurwink already has experience with federal grants; in 2013, it was awarded a significant Department of Education grant to improve student achievement and teacher effectiveness.

Portland Press Herald, Wednesday, September 28: