Torture Victim's Relief Act 2003 may benefit traumatized refugees at OHSU Torture Treatment Clinics

December 05, 2003

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Oregon Health & Science University's Intercultural Psychiatric Program (IPP) is among 20 U.S. torture treatment programs that currently receive federal funding and are eligible for future funding from the recently passed Torture Victim's Relief Act 2003 (HR 1813).

More than 1,100 non-English speaking refugees, immigrants, asylum seekers and their families receive comprehensive mental health services from 18 treatment teams speaking 17 different languages at OHSU's IPP.

The act authorizes $20 million in 2004 and $25 million in 2005 to the Office of Refugee Resettlement of the Department of Health and Human Services to be divided among U.S. programs that provide rehabilitative services for victims of torture. Some new programs may be initiated with this funding.

"Although we cannot erase the emotional and physical horrors endured by torture victims, we can provide treatment to help them move forward and get beyond what they have suffered," said U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, co-sponsor of the bill. "The services and treatment provided by OHSU's program gives hope to victims, their families and their communities for a brighter, freer future."

The overall IPP will continue with or without funding from this act; however, its clinic for Latino survivors of political trauma as well as its clinics for torture victims from Ethiopia, Sudan, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan would be in danger of closing.

"We are really counting on receiving this grant. This patient population is the most economically vulnerable; most have no health coverage and don't qualify for Medicare or Medicaid," said J. David Kinzie, M.D., psychiatrist and director of the Torture Treatment Center of Oregon in the OHSU Intercultural Psychiatric Program. "Our thanks to Sens. Smith and Wyden and Congressman Wu who were instrumental in getting this bill approved. It is an important first step."

"As an ardent human rights advocate, I abhor human rights violations of all kinds," said Congressman David Wu. "Life for torture victims can never be the same, but treatment can restore them to be productive members of their families and communities. We owe them no less."

Most of the patients seen in OHSU's torture treatment clinics are refugees or immigrants. Many suffer from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, which may include recurring nightmares, flashbacks, sleep loss, hyper-vigilance, fear of persecution, social withdrawal or depression, according to Paul Leung, M.D., director of the OHSU Intercultural Psychiatric Program. "Some are torture survivors, while others have psychiatric disorders unrelated to being a refugee. Receiving this grant will allow us to provide services to some of the most vulnerable people in our refugee and immigrant communities. My sincere thanks to our two senators and Congressman Wu for their tireless support."

"OHSU is upholding America's best values by providing support and care to victims of some of the most unspeakable acts of violence," said U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden. "The Torture Victim's Relief Act and OHSU's critical programs help heal torture victims' deepest invisible scars, and I commend OHSU for their efforts."
The OHSU Intercultural Psychiatric Program (IPP) was established in 1977 to help refugees from war-torn countries recover from the effects of war and torture. One of its primary goals is to treat refugees and asylum seekers from countries ravaged by civil war and political unrest. In 2000 the OHSU program opened a federally funded treatment center called the Torture Treatment Center of Oregon to increase outreach and rehabilitative services to traumatized and tortured refugee and asylum seeking populations the program had not yet been able to serve. Along with treatment, medical staff are carrying out research to study the effects of trauma and the effectiveness of the program's therapies.

The IPP also includes an Intercultural Child Traumatic Stress Center, which provides patient care to refugee and immigrant children and families who have suffered from various forms of trauma.

More than 25 mental health counselors and 11 psychiatrists provide culturally sensitive treatment to approximately 1,124 patients in OHSU's Intercultural Psychiatric Program. Services include psychiatric evaluations, medications, individual and group therapy, socialization therapy, help with finding a job, health care services and assistance with asylum.

Oregon Health & Science University

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