Journey Mental Health Center has announced that a program serving Hmong with mental health issues will close.
The facility, also known as KajSiab House, is a place where Hmong elders and their families can receive treatment for trauma related disorders, such as post traumatic stress disorder.
According to Doua Vang, the program’s manager, KajSiab House serves 155 clients. Many of those clients, he says, live with severe mental health problems that were caused by the Vietnam War and their experiences as refugees.
“Many of them are widows of war veterans, they either lost their spouse or family members during the war,” Vang says. “Because of the stigma attached to mental health treatment, this program was specifically designed to counter that stigma in a welcoming place and welcoming environment where they can express themselves and feel safe to talk about their pasts.”
Lynn Brady, Journey’s CEO and president, said in a news release that the program is closing due to the loss of a federal contract. She says a company that arranges Medicaid covered transportation to medical appointments terminated its contract with Journey in February, resulting in a loss of revenue that has impacted the program’s budget. Journey has had to cover the program’s deficit for the past five years, Brady says, and that puts other programs at risk.
Vang, however, says he was given little information about the facility’s closing from staff at Journey and was not consulted about plans for the closing. He was informed about it just two days prior to the formal announcement.
“I am angry and frustrated because I think Journey does not do a good leadership as we were hoping,” Vang says. “The program has been self-sustaining since the beginning since we started it. Eventually there was no plan in place and no strategy on how to keep the program going. And suddenly they just decided to close it.”
According to Brady, news of the closing was leaked to the public, so they were unable to consult KajSiab House staff properly about the plan.
“This isn’t something we wanted to do,” Brady says. “We’ve supported the program for a long, long time. We value it – it’s a nationally recognized model, it’s a wonderful program. It is a victim of finances – that’s all. Unfortunately, insurance cut needs and medicaid doesn’t pay a lot of money for the kinds of services we need to provide to people, whether they’re Hmong people or not Hmong people.”
The closing of the program will have a large impact on the Hmong community, Vang says. Because there are no other psychiatric treatment programs specifically for the Hmong population, he expects there to be significant consequences.
“With the background that they have — anxiety or depression they are facing daily — suicidal thoughts and ideations are high,” Vang says. “We’re going to see more people going to psychiatric hospitals and emergency rooms. We definitely anticipate that will happen.”
Vang also says staff at KajSiab House have not fully discussed with clients about the closing yet because they are afraid it will exacerbate their anxiety.
In the future, Brady says Journey will work with program staff to provide alternative services to the current clients. She says she is open to any ideas they have in moving forward.
“We’re not gonna walk away and not serve people, but we have to serve people in a way that we can get reimbursed for it,” Brady says. “We can’t serve people if we can’t cover the cost of providing that service. We have to do it in a way that makes this sustainable.”
Though Brady expressed intentions of collaborating with KajSiab House staff, Vang says he is unaware of any plans that Journey has for the program and has not been informed of anything yet.
The KajSiab House is expected to close on Sept. 28.
WORT reporter Kayla Huynh reported this story.