Meeting the Health Needs of Arriving Afghan Refugees in New York State
Special Projects Fund
December 13, 2021
In August 2021, U.S. armed forces completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan to officially end the war, leaving behind a humanitarian crisis.
The Taliban quickly retook the country, making many Afghans vulnerable to persecution. More than 12,000 Afghans have fled the country and a total of 75,000 evacuees are expected to arrive in the United States—with 1,300 expected to be resettled in New York State. Most of them have been categorized as humanitarian parolees, and their eligibility for resettlement services has been changing on a regular basis. It is unclear if they will have long-term access to public benefits like Medicaid, be eligible for Office of Refugee Resettlement-funded services, or have any kind of path to permanent residency and/or citizenship. Refugee resettlement agencies frequently provide assistance to individuals with severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression, and they typically rely on mental health and health care providers to meet the physical and mental health needs of arriving refugees. In 2021, NYSHealth awarded the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) a grant to provide and coordinate services and help Afghan refugees resettling in New York State navigate complex bureaucracies. NYSHealth is also supporting a complementary initiative with Jewish Family Services of Western New York.
Under this grant, NYIC will provide technical assistance to prepare its network organizations for the unique needs of Afghan refugees, including training on trauma-informed health screenings and treatment for pre-existing chronic conditions, as well as screening for conditions such as PTSD, anxiety, and depression. NYIC’s membership network includes organizations that offer or facilitate health and mental health services, and a subset of these organizations also offer resettlement or health services specifically for refugees. NYIC will also provide technical assistance to these organizations regarding navigating the complexities of public benefit eligibility and enrollment for humanitarian parolees. It will help members apply for mini-grants that will allow them to enhance their health and mental health service delivery to meet the unique needs of Afghan refugees.