Maine is home to more than 12,000 refugees from over 30 countries. Many share common experiences of upheaval and trauma. Some face barriers to accessing mental health services, including those related to culture, language, the stigma of mental health challenges, and the primacy of resettlement or stability concerns such as finding housing or employment.
ShifaME is Maine’s only provider of Trauma Systems Therapy for Refugees (TST-R), an evidence-based model of mental health service delivery specifically designed to reduce barriers to mental health services faced by children who are refugees and their families. ShifaME addresses specific trauma and stressors common to the refugee experience, helping youth and their families stabilize and heal.
Thanks to the generous support from the Hudson Foundation, Spurwink can provide increased access to critical behavioral health care services for families without health insurance, resources to address food insecurity and basic needs, and culturally appropriate school-based groups focused on improving mental health, building confidence, and addressing trauma.
The key to success for ShifaME is relationships at the community level, led by cultural brokers who earn trust by listening and responding to the unique needs of clients and their families, including food, personal items, recreational opportunities, or access to healthcare. ShifaME program staff have risen to the challenge presented by the pandemic and continued to provide services, meet needs, and leverage resources and partnerships. Without this unique model for meeting families where they are with culturally appropriate supports, many families would not get the critical care they need to address trauma, begin to heal, and fully engage in our community.
These grant funds allow us to work with families to apply for additional funds, or to cover the costs of care when it’s not possible to bill insurance. At a time when Maine’s low-income refugee and asylee communities are already stressed by Covid-19, access to mental health care can be a crucial lifeline.
The Hudson Foundation was an early and critically important supporter of the ShifaME program, which launched in 2011 in partnership with local schools and ethnic community-based organizations. With their continued support, meeting basic needs has provided long-term positive results for the children and adults Spurwink serves, and is ultimately a benefit to our community.