Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

16651 Building Community Capacity for Healing Refugee Trauma: Evaluation of the New Neighbors Providers Network

Saturday, January 14, 2012: 4:30 PM
Penn Quarter B (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Patricia Shannon, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Saint Paul, MN
Jennifer Simmelink, MSW, Graduate Research Assistant, Doctoral Student, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, St. Paul, MN
Hyojin Im, MA, PhD Student, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, St. Paul, MN
Background and Purpose: The New Neighbors Providers Network (NNPN) was developed through participatory research methods to address the health and mental health needs of a large influx of refugees from war torn areas in an under-resourced suburban community in Minnesota The suburbs of Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center, with a combined population of 100,000, are home to the large majority of Liberian refugees (15,000) as well as thousands of other West and East African survivors of war trauma and torture in Minnesota. Many refugees have experienced war related atrocities that leave them with physical and psychological symptoms including chronic pain, injuries, illness, and high rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depression (Basoglu, 1002; Jaranson, et. al., 2004). The chief risk factor for long term poor adjustment in such post war communities is the lack of access to needed services or social supports (Norris, et. al, 2001). Many refugees in this community face a two hour bus ride to needed health and mental health services in Minneapolis. This network of local providers was created to identify gaps in service and improve knowledge and care of refugees. . This study evaluates the effectiveness of creating a sustainable, community based, multi-disciplinary network of care for refugee survivors in an underserved community.

Methods: Independent researchers conducted confidential interviews with 30 network participants. The interviews consisted of 32 questions using a mixed methods design to evaluate the impact of network participation on personal and organizational changes related to serving refugee survivors. Participants responded to questions using a ten point Likert Scale and then provided qualitative feedback as an explanation of their ratings. The qualitative responses were analyzed using thematic content analysis. Seven (23.3%) participants were African leaders while others represented mainstream providers including health services ( 4 ), schools (4 ), police (2 ), county services ( 3), housing (1), churches (2),civic/city groups (2), basic needs (2), mental health (3). Participants attended the NNPN between 6 months and two years (M=19 months, SD=5.9).

Results: Twenty seven respondents (90%) reported changes in knowledge and attitude including increased knowledge of physical, mental, cultural and family needs of refugees; developing more positive approaches, gaining more systems knowledge, and feeling more supported in their work. Twenty two (73%) observed changes in their organizational processes including increased awareness, improved processes for working with survivors, improved networking and referrals, and broadened collaborations. Differences between African led community based organizations and mainstream providers will be presented as well as data related to the sustainability of the network.

Conclusion and Implications: Conclusive findings are limited due to the lack of a comparison community however evaluation data indicated that networking proved to be an effective and sustainable method for building support, trust, knowledge and accountability in underserved communities. Collaborations between mainstream and immigrant providers are necessary to effectively outreach address the health and mental health needs of refugee communities. These findings confirm the effectiveness of participatory models for community based research in refugee communities.

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