Report: Iraqi Refugees in Sacramento Struggle To Access Mental Care
Many of the 2,700 Iraqi refugees living in the Sacramento area have experienced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder but struggle to obtain mental health care services, according to a report by the UC-Davis Health System Clinical and Translational Science Center, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The report was conducted with the help of Opening Doors, a refugee resettlement agency, and the Mesopotamia Organization, an Iraqi self-help agency.
The report analyzed the number of Iraqi refugees experiencing PTSD symptoms and found that:
- 59% of refugees reported experiencing insomnia;
- 44% of refugees reported experiencing depression;
- 41% of refugees reported experiencing headaches; and
- 38% of refugees reported experiencing fear (Magagnini, Sacramento Bee, 6/3).
According to the report:
- 65% of refugees reported experiencing long waits for treatment of symptoms;
- 74% of refugees said needed services were not covered by their health insurance; and
- 82% ofÂ refugees said that the U.S. health care system moved too slowly (UC-Davis report, May 2013).
Linda Zieghan -- research program manager at the clinical and translational science center -- said that many Iraqi refugees do not receive needed mental health services because they are reluctant to discuss their conditions with counselors or because they find it difficult to navigate the U.S. health system.
Zieghan said, "These people ... were displaced, and they have no choice," adding, "Most of them are getting really frustrated with the American health care system."
Marissa Ramos -- chief of the California Refugee Health Program -- said there are not enough physicians in the state willing to accept Medi-Cal beneficiaries, leading to delaysÂ for appointments. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
Sarmed Ibrahim -- who founded the Mesopotamia Organization -- said, "I want to thank the U.S. for making us feel safe," but "after at least 10 years of suffering, most of us need mental care. It takes three to four months to get an appointment with a psychiatrist covered by Medi-Cal."
He added that the lack of medical treatment is affecting Iraqi refugees' ability to obtain jobs.
Delphine Brody of the California Network of Mental Health Clients noted that Sacramento County does not have a program for victims of war and torture.Brody said that refugees' need for "trauma-sensitive, culturally and linguistically appropriate mental health" is "a humanitarian crisis that deserves the very best response that Sacramento County can give" (Magagnini, Sacramento Bee, 6/3). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.