Refugees, asylees, and undocumented immigrants alike often experience traumatic events, whether it be in their home countries, during their travels, or once they settle in the United States, all of which may affect their mental health. It is important for migrants to be aware of the impact that these events have on mental health and, if needed, to seek services through informal and formal networks to improve their livelihoods. Below we have compiled a list of resources and services in the Greater Boston area that have experience working with refugees and migrant populations on addressing their mental health challenges.
An Overview on Mental Health
People in a good place with their mental health are able to manage the stresses in their lives and work productively. At times, however, life events may arise and change a person’s feelings and/or ability to complete daily tasks which may impact one’s mental health. While experiencing a range of emotions as a reaction to life events do not necessarily constitute a mental health challenge, individuals who experience feelings that last longer than typical emotions would be expected to may be experiencing a mental health challenge and should seek help. In order to address mental health challenges, people seek help in both formal and informal networks. Formal networks may include mental health clinics and therapy while informal networks may refer to seeking support from family and friends. If you feel that you are unable to manage your daily stresses and complete daily tasks, we urge you to seek assistance from a formal or informal network. We have compiled a list of services, programs, and other resources to help in your search for mental health support.
Mental Health Insurance
Medicaid is a state-run program that provides medical assistance to low-income individuals. In general, those who receive Medicaid are able to receive reimbursements for psychological counseling and prescribed medications.
The Children’s Health Insurance Program provides low-cost health coverage to children in families, and sometimes pregnant women, whose incomes do not qualify them for Medicaid.
Documented immigrants, refugees and asylees are eligible to apply to Medicaid and the The Children’s Health Insurance Program. However, most documented immigrants must enter a five-year waiting period to receive Medicaid or participate in the Children's Health Insurance Program. In addition, documented immigrants, refugees and asylees are able to purchase private health insurance and often are eligible for more affordable monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs.
Unfortunately, undocumented immigrants are not eligible to purchase health coverage or receive premium tax credits and savings that are available to other groups. However, there are other resources that undocumented immigrants can seek out, some of which are noted below.
We’ve compiled a list of affordable mental health services in the Greater Boston Area––check out our database HERE. Below are a few resources we want to highlight:
The Refugee & Immigrant Assistance Center The Refugee & Immigrant Assistance Center (RIAC), formerly known as the Somali Women And Children’s Association is a community-based, non-profit, grassroots human service agency that provides comprehensive services to refugees, asylees, and immigrants as well as the larger community. RIAC’s services include refugee resettlement, asylee case management, counseling, outreach and education, and other social services.
RIAC’s mission is to promote cultural, educational, and socioeconomic development in the refugee and immigrant community. RIAC offers the following mental health services:
Community Counseling: RIAC Community Counseling Services is a community-based mental health and social support agency created to serve the unique needs of refugees and immigrants. RIAC’s multicultural and multilingual clinical staff have expertise in refugee and immigrant mental health issues as well as a deep understanding of the cultural needs of the populations RIAC serves.
Social Adjustment Services: Staff provides outreach and support to Somali children in the Boston public schools. RIAC provides support, education and training to parents and teachers, and to families who seek help learning about the United States and adjusting to life here. RIAC also organizes summer programs for youth.
Brookline Community Mental Health Center: This organization offers a wide range of mental health services, including therapy for adults and children, home- and school-based counseling, crisis intervention, and more. The bulk of its clients qualify as low- or moderate-income, and it provides 10,000 free or reduced-cost visits each year.
Catholic Charities: The organization’s Counseling Center in South Boston is a professional mental health clinic that provides a comprehensive, quality care for people struggling with a range of life issues. Catholic Charities also offers a Family Intervention Program which provides a wide range of services including individual, family, parent/child, and group counseling.
Staff expertise includes depression and anxiety disorders, life adjustments, family and marital conflicts, school conflicts, and child and adolescent counseling, among other specialties.
De Novo: Formerly known as the Community Legal Services and Counseling Center, De Novo provides free civil legal aid and affordable psychological counseling to low-income people. De Novo assists refugee and immigrant clients who are experiencing anxiety, depression, social isolation, relationship difficulties, family troubles, work problems, trauma associated with violence, or have other concerns
Fenway Health: Fenway Health offers a variety of short-term, skill-based psychotherapy groups, longer-term psychotherapy groups, and support groups. These group sessions may provide a valuable opportunity for building community. Fenway Health also offers individual, couple, and family counseling.
Ansin Building at 1340 Boylston Street: 617.927.6000
Fenway: South End at 142 Berkley Street, Boston, MA: 617.247.7555
Maria Droste Counseling Services: Maria Droste is a non-profit outpatient mental health counseling and holistic therapy agency that provides affordable care regardless of one’s ability to pay for services. Maria Droste offers services to individuals, couples, children, adolescents & families and uses a sliding pay scale based on each individual patient’s ability to pay to ensure one’s financial situation does not pose a barrier to regular, sustained mental health care. 1354 Hancock Street, 2nd Floor, Suite 209 Quincy, MA 02169; 617-471-5686, firstname.lastname@example.org ; mariadrostecounseling.com
Samaritans: Samaritans works to prevent suicide and provide support to those who have lost someone to suicide through its 24/7 crisis hotline, grief support services, and community workshops on suicide prevention. The free 24/7 crisis hotline offers non-judgmental support and conversation to callers who are depressed, lonely, or considering suicide. Helpline: 877-870-4673 41 West Street, 4th Floor Boston, MA 02111; 617-536-2460; email@example.com; samaritanshope.org
Hospital-Based Mental Health Programs
Boston Medical’s Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights (BCRHHR) provides comprehensive mental health services designed to meet the special needs of refugees, survivors of torture, asylum seekers and immigrants. Some services include general counseling and medication management. BCRHHR is also able to provide psychological assessments for patients who are involved in the asylum process. Interpreter services are available in more than 250 languages. 617-414-4794 Dowling Building at Boston Medical Center 850 Harrison Ave, 7th Floor Boston, MA 02118
Refugee Trauma and Resilience Center at Boston Children's Hospital The Boston Children’s Hospital Refugee Trauma and Resilience Center is dedicated to understanding and promoting the healthy adjustment of refugee children and adolescents who have resettled in the United States. In partnership with refugee communities and agencies, we build prevention and intervention programs, conduct research, and develop resources to assist refugee families and service providers.
Trauma Systems Therapy for Refugees (TST-R) is an evidence-based model of care for refugee and immigrant youth who have experienced trauma which attempts to reduce barriers to treatment by ensuring access of such groups to culturally-responsive and linguistically appropriate care. TST-R seeks not only to address mental health concerns within refugee and immigrant communities, but also to increase the cultural knowledge of practitioners serving such groups.
Some of the key adaptations that has occurred within TST-R to ensure culturally-responsive, linguistically appropriate care includes the addition of:
Cultural brokers from the identified refugee and immigrant community who conduct outreach, co-lead groups, and support the provision of clinical services by partnering with clinicians
Caregiver/community outreach focused on stigma reduction and mental health psychoeducation
Education of service systems on the refugee and immigrant experience
Skills-based groups provide preventive skill building around managing acculturative stress, building a sense of social belongingness, dealing with interpersonal conflict, and effectively regulating emotions
Immigrant and Refugee Health Programs The Immigrant and Refugee Health Programs (IRHP) through the Center for Community Health Improvement at Massachusetts General Hospital works to provide culturally responsive health care, assist with the integration of children and their families into schools, and improve the cultural competence of providers. IRHP assists in connecting refugees and immigrant communities to various services and resources to address their mental health needs. IRHP Mental Health Initiatives
Refugee Health Assessments are provided through Massachusetts General Hospital where staff performs comprehensive health assessments for newly-arriving refugees and asylees to identify the physical and mental health needs of these individuals.
The new Central American immigrants’ initiative targets children, adolescents and adults patients newly arrived from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador and connects such individuals to both physical and mental health services as well as various social services.
The Immigrant and Refugee School initiative bridges the cultural and academic gaps for newly arrived immigrant and refugee children by orienting these individuals to the U.S. education system. Immigrant and refugee children are taught various skills and given tools to help them succeed in school. Call: 617-887-3593 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Ali Abdullahi, Manager at the Center for Community Health Improvement) Website:https://www.massgeneral.org/community-health/cchi/programs/immigrant-and-refugee-health-programs
Domestic and Sexual Violence Resources
Across Massachusetts, there are multiple organizations who provide free and confidential assistance to survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault, regardless of immigration status. Immigrants may be a particularly vulnerable group, as their immigration status is sometimes tied to that of a spouse, or because they may have experienced sexual violence during their journey to the United States. Several organizations provide support specifically for refugee and immigrant victims of domestic violence. UC Hastings Center for Gender and Refugee Studies have created a Pro Se Guide for Survivors of Domestic Violence seeking asylum, which can be downloaded in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole. This manual is intended to provide asylum applicants with resources to support their case for asylum and provide a defense to deportation in immigration court. There is also information on protections in place for victims of domestic and sexual abuse under the Convention Against Torture.
Jane Doe is a statewide organization advocating for survivors of sexual and domestic violence and has several resources for immigrants. Jane Doe also has an interactive service locator tool which can help individuals find free and confidential support and services.
Casa Myrna is a Boston organization providing domestic violence awareness, as well as shelter and supportive services to survivors. Their services are available in both Spanish and English. Trained advocates offer confidential support, assistance with safety planning, direct connections to shelters and referrals to community services.
For support, assistance with safety planning, and information on appropriate resources, Call their toll-free SafeLink hotline at (877) 785-2020.
Call SafeLink for:
Safety planning resources for survivors to learn how they and their families can stay safe.
A safe and confidential space in which to talk about your relationship or someone else’s.
A direct connection to domestic violence programs across Massachusetts
Referrals to local domestic violence and other community resources
Support and resources for anyone who is concerned about a victim of domestic violence
Information about domestic and dating violence
Survivors of Torture Resources
Refugees may have experienced torture or other inhumane treatment, which may be their reason for fleeing, or they may have experienced torture during their journey. Below is information on health care providers and resources specifically for survivors of torture. Note that many of these organizations also can assist with an affidavit to support an asylum or immigration case in court.