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Helping to heal a community

A Kaiser Permanente grant expands and strengthens mental health support for the Asian Pacific Islander community.

A ripple effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a dramatic increase in hate crimes against the Asian Pacific Islander (API) community in Northern California and nationwide.

Anxiety, depression, and mental health trauma have grown substantially in local API communities, which have been reeling from the effects of being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Recognizing the need for expanded mental health services in the community, Kaiser Permanente Northern California awarded a $100,000 grant to Asian Health Services (AHS).

“We know that Asian Health Services has seen a significant increase in demand for mental health services during this time of increased racial trauma, violence, and stress,” said Yvette Radford, vice president for Kaiser Permanente Northern California External and Community Affairs. “This grant is part of our ongoing commitment to support our community partners in providing critical services to people who are uninsured or cannot otherwise afford care.”

Hostility, discrimination, and violence

AHS, an Oakland-based nonprofit, has provided medical, dental, and mental health care to low-income API community members in the East Bay for more than 50 years.

“Kaiser Permanente’s support is critical to our behavioral health services and to our therapy teams who have been working nonstop,” said Julia Liou, CEO of AHS.

AHS’s team of 8 licensed clinical social workers and 3 approved social workers see nearly 600 patients a month — a 60% increase from the same time last year.

“There has been a significant influx of fear, anxiety, and racial trauma within our communities. Kaiser Permanente’s support is critical to our behavioral health services and to our teams who have been working nonstop.” – Julia Liou

Katy Wengrofsky, an integrated behavioral health manager at AHS, said many of AHS’s clients went from having mild to moderate anxiety or depression to having much more severe symptoms during the pandemic.

A portion of the grant supports trauma-informed care training for therapists to handle cases of assault, robbery, and harassment and to help their patients begin a journey of healing.

“Kaiser Permanente gave us the opportunity to expand our services and meet the unique needs of our API communities during a time of xenophobia and uncertainty during the pandemic,” Wengrofsky said.

Part of the training included a therapy called eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, proven to help people recover from trauma.

Parenting is key to a healthy family

The Kaiser Permanente grant has been used to fund a parent support group designed to educate patients about mental health topics — stress management, family communication, and parenting.

The support group has so far assisted 80 patients with parenting during the pandemic, supporting children suffering from anxiety or depression, and helping them adjust to changes brought on by COVID-19.

“We have a lot of API parents who have needed to learn what mental health is in general, and what they should do to support their child,” Wengrofsky said. “The support group is helping break down barriers to mental health care, particularly stigma, which I believe is the number one barrier in the API community to getting help.”

Also included in the funding is equipment and training to expand AHS’ telehealth services. This has dropped AHS’ no-show rate by 8%, according to Wengrofsky.

Kaiser Permanente has funded AHS for many years, including in the last 5 years a total of $250,000 to increase access to quality behavioral health serves among the API community in Alameda County.

Learn more about Kaiser Permanente’s donations to help stop Asian hate crimes.


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