In May 2018, the United States announced the Zero Tolerance Policy requiring officials to separate parents and children entering the country without appropriate documentation. In response, attorneys from Public Counsel and Sidley Austin filed a class-action lawsuit demanding that the U.S. Government provide mental health services to address the psychological impacts of forced separation. Seneca supported the litigants as a pro bono expert witness and consultant. In a historic ruling in November 2019, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction requiring the U.S. Government to provide immediate mental health treatment to the families who remained in the United States and were navigating the impacts of trauma caused by the administration’s separation policy.
Following the court order, Seneca was awarded a contract from the US Health and Human Services Administration’s (HHS) General Council to develop Todo Por Mi Familia (TPMF). TPMF grew into a nationwide effort to connect reunified families in the United States with mental health assessments and treatment. Seneca enlisted more than 300 clinicians to join the network of responders while working closely with legal advocacy organizations, including the ACLU and the Biden Administration’s Family Reunification Task Force. More than 1,000 individual family members participated in behavioral health services over this initial contract period.
In June 2022, Seneca was awarded a new iteration of this contract under the auspices of HHS’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. This new contract recognizes the need to continue providing free mental health treatment and expands mental health treatment to include a more comprehensive array of behavioral health* services. These include psychiatric evaluations, medication management, psychoeducational classes, pre-reunification counseling for children expecting their parents to return to the U.S. soon, and inpatient psychiatric services.
The new contract also recognizes the incredible complexities facing families settling in the United States and supports the delivery of comprehensive behavioral case management services to every family who wishes to engage in such services.
The scope of services and support under this federal contract includes:
- A Seneca Behavioral Health Case Manager completes an initial assessment and service plan in collaboration with the family and then coordinates referrals to identified, needed local services, including behavioral health providers who meet the families’ various needs.
- Behavioral health services are free and conducted in the language the family speaks fluently.
- Seneca does not share any information about the family or services they access with any individual or agency without prior written and informed consent.
- Case Managers offer families psychoeducation and parenting support as well as assistance with enrolling children in school and coordinating with school-based behavioral health providers.
- Case Managers coordinate enrolling families in public benefits or gaining access to legal resources.
- Case Managers offer child-centered pre-reunification counseling in instances where parents are still in home country but are working on travel plans to the US.
Over the first nine months of this new contract, Seneca has begun conducting outreach to all families served under the former contract, as well as newly identified families – both in the United States and abroad – to inform them of the program’s newest services and connect them to Behavioral Health Case management and behavioral health services, if they so choose. The program’s incredibly passionate and empathetic team has been remarkably successful in this work.
Since the program initially launched more than two years ago:
- 1,919 families have been reached since service delivery began under the current contract
- 1,296 individuals have received behavioral health services
- 735 families have received case management services (a new service under the current contract) between June 10 and December 31, 2022.
*Behavioral health refers to both mental health and substance use