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Addressing the Invisible Affliction: An Assessment of Behavioral Health Services for Newly Resettled Refugees in the United States


The behavioral health needs of refugees in the USA remain insufficiently studied due to a lack of data on their assessment, referral, and treatment during the resettlement process. This study examines the current behavioral health service provisions for this population through individual interviews of refugee resettlement agency staff in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and a nationwide survey of state refugee health coordinators. The results reveal shortfalls in behavioral health screening, clinical resources, and other federally mandated services along with linguistic and cultural obstacles facing refugees with potential behavioral health needs. This study offers actionable policy and procedural recommendations on the federal, state, and local levels to address these shortfalls. This includes increasing funding for healthcare entitlement programs and refugee resettlement agencies, improving screening procedures and treatment protocols, expanding federal and state oversight of mandated behavioral health services, and establishing community-partnered programs to reduce cultural and stigma-related barriers to behavior health care.

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Correspondence to Amir A. Afkhami.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors. GWU IRB#: 101610, determined research not involving human subjects.

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Afkhami, A.A., Gorentz, K. Addressing the Invisible Affliction: An Assessment of Behavioral Health Services for Newly Resettled Refugees in the United States. Int. Migration & Integration 20, 247–259 (2019).

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