Services extend to low-income families regardless of health insurance
A coalition of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) organizations have announced a mental health program designed for beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
The DACA Mental Health Project comprises of 10 community-based organizations from the Los Angeles-based Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (A3PCON) that will provide free professional counseling, case management and family preparedness services for DACA recipients and their families.
The groups that came together to form the DACA Mental Health Project said they provide services in 12 languages to cater to the diverse group of Asian DACA beneficiaries: Bangla, Cantonese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Mandarin, Tagalog, Thai, Urdu, Vietnamese and English.
DACA, which is slowly phasing out after an announcement from the White House last month, has provided work authorization, protection from deportation and other benefits to nearly 800,000 undocumented youth since 2012.
The news shocked the country, especially undocumented youth who, overnight, saw their futures change and career opportunities made possible through DACA stripped.
Maria Strong, a DACA legal expert who has worked with the coalition to tailor the program for undocumented youth, told the Asian Journal that the program is “absolutely necessary” to show that DACA recipients there is strong support in the community.
“Many of these young people don’t know what to do and they feel as if their futures are not guaranteed,” Strong said in a phone interview on Monday, October 16. “There’s not a lot going on right now in Washington in the way of an alternative solution [for DACA], so the best we can do is to advocate for these individuals and their families and give them the counseling they need to cope as the fight for undocumented youth goes on.”
Strong added that the project’s distance from the government may ease those who may be wary of sharing sensitive information. She also pointed out that the Trump administration’s decision to end DACA sends a “resounding message” of unwelcome that has struck a chord for all undocumented youth.
“The message that the White House sent was very loud and clear: you’re not welcome here,” Strong remarked. “Unless Congress comes up with a solution like the DREAM Act of some alternative solution, many clients feel as if the government has turned their back on them. The need for these [mental health] services shouldn’t be necessary, but we’re here to ensure these kids that there is someone here for them and will fight for them.”
The program is designed to cater to a wide range of individuals and families, including those struggling to pay for health services. According to Connie Chung Joe, co-chair of A3PCON, now was the best time to provide these services given the uncertainty that has scared many clients from seeking health.
“We wanted to make it particularly clear that we would find a way to serve DACA recipients regardless of whatever Medi-Cal qualifications or status, [and] without having to [worry] about getting the government involved,” Chung said.
Asians in the undocumented community make up about 10 percent of the population that’s eligible for DACA, according to a 2014 report from the Migration Policy Institute. Federal immigration data from 2016 saw that the Philippines was among the top 24 countries that boast the highest number of DACA recipients; as of 2016, more than 9,000 Filipinos were currently enrolled in the program, according to a report from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The agencies involved in the program include the Asian Pacific American Dispute Resolution Center (APADRC), Asian Pacific Counseling and Treatment Centers (APCTC), Asian Pacific Family Center of Pacific Clinics, Asian Pacific Intervention Team (APAIT), Chinatown Service Center (CSC), Korean Family Services (KFAM), Koreatown Youth and Community Center (KYCC), Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC), Pacific Asian Counseling Services (PACS), and South Asian Network (SAN).
For more information, visit http://asianpacificpolicyandplanningcouncil.org. The Asian Pacific Counseling and Treatment Centers offer counseling and case management in Tagalog. For more information call, (213) 252-2100. (By Klarize Medenilla / AJPress)