January 2012

Health Needs Continue Two Years
After Haiti Quake

The January 12, 2010 Haiti earthquake had a significant impact in Massachusetts -- home to the third largest Haitian population in the country. It particularly affected several community health centers whose staff and patients make up a large portion of this population. Immediately after the earthquake, the Commonwealth mobilized a response that focused on post-disaster mental health and trauma recovery services for the Haitian-American community. Health centers, along with other agencies, were engaged by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) to provide short-term behavioral health support to communities directly impacted by the earthquake.


Not surprisingly, eighteen months after the massive earthquake, an urgency for these services persisted throughout Massachusetts. With funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) through the 12-month SAMHSA Emergency Response Grant (SERG), the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) continued efforts to address the behavioral health needs of those affected by the earthquake. DMH partnered with DPH through the Refugee and Immigrant Health Program. In addition, DPH established contracts in July 2011 with the League and nine community health centers serving Haitian and Haitian-American patients to invest in the network of care that had been previously mobilized. 


Today, health centers and their network of community partners continue to provide critical mental health support to individuals and groups impacted by the earthquake. Health centers are providing various specialized services, including individual counseling services, self-care workshops, art therapy programs and weekly survivor group sessions.  To increase awareness of these services, contracted staff and partners are employing extensive outreach tactics, including word-of-mouth, broadcasting on weekly radio programs and distributing fliers at schools, places of worship and community programs.


In an effort to train and strengthen the skills of community health center program staff in providing this support, DMH has partnered with the Center for Multicultural Mental Health at Boston Medical Center. Sessions cover a range of disaster relief topics, including the typical phases of disaster, psychological first aid, recognizing problematic behavior and teaching self-care to community based helpers. These trainings have been extremely helpful to health center staff as they work with individuals affected by the earthquake.


As a major grant partner, the League provides technical, administrative and programmatic support to health centers participating in the initiative. To foster collaboration among health centers, DPH and the League host monthly conference calls and quarterly Community of Care meetings for the health centers and community partners. These allow health centers to convey needs identified by their patient population, as well as the opportunity to share resources and promising practices amongst members. The health centers' commitment to their communities is demonstrated through their determination to meet the persistent and wide-ranging mental health needs of their communities two years after the Haiti earthquake.


Participating Health Centers:  

Who's Who: The Haiti SERG Team
Upham's Corner Health Center 

Rather than focusing on just one individual, this month's Who's Who section highlights the outstanding efforts of the Haiti SERG team at Upham's Corner Health Center. 

The neighborhood of Upham's Corner in Dorchester has maintained a significant population of Haitian families over many years. So when a horrific earthquake struck Haiti two years ago, Haitian-born health center workers Adelina Alves, Louis Jean-Noel and Marie Dorcely immediately started planning a range of outreach activities and care to address the fall-out from the devastating event.

Adelina, Supervisor of the Community Health Education Program at Upham's Corner, has been working at the Center for twenty-two years and leads outreach and education initiatives for all of Upham's patient populations. Louis and Marie, with their strong community ties and familiarity with Haitian Creole, provide a wide range of support to the Haitian community.    

As a result of the Center's past outreach efforts, the team was able to communicate immediately to the Haitian community through well-established channels such as the Haitian radio station Vwa Lakay, on which two Upham's Corner outreach workers host a weekly spot to discuss issues impacting the Haitian community. Topics range from help with finding fuel assistance to teen employment opportunities to health and wellness tips. In fact, Marie was active with Vwa Lakay before the Center hired her to provide full-time translation and medical support services to Haitian patients seven years ago. "Marie's knowledge of the Haitian community's needs has been a huge asset," says Adelina.  

Shortly after the earthquake, the health center received funding to help displaced families who moved to the area from Haiti after the disaster. Needs of the community quickly began to grow. For example, some local families grew increasingly overwhelmed with the extra family members living with them. In addition, because many Haitians do not speak English, they have immense trouble navigating the social services for which they are eligible. Overwhelmed by phone calls, the Center hired Louis a little over five months ago to serve as a SERG Patient Advocate. Coming to Upham's Corner from a nearby Haitian church which serves the community, Louis immediately knew he had the right skills for the job. He spends his day on the phone and working tirelessly to find patients in need through churches and community centers. Adelina is quick to emphasize that "Louis' work will continue through this organization no matter what happens with this initiative in the future."

In an effort to increase resources for the Haitian community, Upham's Corner has partnered with the Haitian-American Public Health Initiatives (HAPHI), an organization that provides community-based group counseling and mental health support. HAPHI also offers job training and ESL classes, and refers patients who are in need of primary medical care services to Upham's Corner.

According to Adelina, the biggest challenge so far has been the fact that immigration policy and funding for services are not always aligned, putting an enormous burden on agencies working with scarce resources. Difficulties aside, Upham's finds a way to help, and she clarifies that "to get the services here you don't have to be a registered patient -- you just have to be Haitian."

The Upham's SERG team -- along with their grant partners and CEO Edward Grimes -- has gone far and above providing health care for all; they are providing important social support services for a traumatized community.


Workforce Calendar

February 10th 
Disaster Behavioral Health Training: Skills for Psychological Recovery 
Boston Medical Center, 9am-12pm 

Boston University Medical Center contracted with MDPH in the Haiti SERG Initiative to continue efforts to address the mental health needs of those affected by the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti. Through this collaboration, BU Medical Center is providing a series of emergency response trainings open to all health center staff free of cost that are interested in attending. 
Please RSVP for this FREE Training by filling out the following survey.

February 14th

Tobacco Cessation Training
Free to all Health Center Staff
Radisson Hotel, Boston
Register here 


March 21-25th
NACHC Policy & Issues Forum
Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, Washington DC

If you have an article suggestion or a recommendation of who to feature in an upcoming monthly Workforce Newsletter, please send it to Megan Fraser: mfras[email protected]

In This Issue
Health Needs Continue Two Years After Haiti Quake
Who's Who: The Haiti SERG Team at Upham's Corner Health Center
Workforce Calendar

Safe Winter Driving 

-Clear snow and ice from all windows and lights, even the hood and roof, before driving.

-Give yourself and others plenty of room for stopping. Remember that trucks are heavier than cars and take more time to come to a stop, so avoid cutting in front of them.

-Look further ahead in traffic than you normally would and turn your headlights on.

-Be wary of bridge decks and exit ramps as their surface conditions can be worse than the main road. 

-Stock your car with a scraper and brush, small shovel, jumper cables, tow chain and a bag of sand or cat litter for tire traction. 

-Know the road conditions by calling 511 from your cell phone or any of the following from either your cell phone or landline phone: 

Metro Boston: 
(617) 986-5511

Central Mass:
(508) 499-5511

Western Mass:
(413) 754-5511


For more information




Have a Healthy Bounce Back from Holiday Weight Gain

-Don't get discouraged by weight gain


-Up your fruit and veggie intake


-Pre-arrange exercise time


-Resist depriving yourself  


For more information

Wanted: Preceptors! 

Recieive $1,500/student

(Student/Resident Experiences and Rotations in Community Health)

To obtain more information, click here or contact Leslie Bailey or Alexis Powell