Story by CVT volunteer Patricia Busse
How does an operation with a full-time staff of just three reach 400 clients annually in more than 10 states?
The Human Rights Clinic (HRC) at New York City-based HealthRight International does it by enlisting the help of more than 300 HRC-trained volunteer clinicians in 11 states and by partnering with local organizations to serve survivors of torture.
HRC recruits and trains physicians and mental health providers to do evaluations of torture survivors that can be used by their attorneys in asylum cases, said Project Director Lisa Matos.
“The way HealthRight operates is by working with local partners because we want to make sure that the work we do is sustainable,” Matos said. “We usually only provide services in states where there’s a torture treatment program.”
Currently the HRC provides services to survivors in Connecticut, Virginia, California, Colorado, Arizona and Washington State among others.
HealthRight’s goal in partnering with local organizations is to make its own very specific services one part of a holistic treatment program, Matos said.
The volunteer clinicians that make the HealthRight program work are drawn in by the opportunity for training and experience, she said.
“A lot of [clinicians] say that we give them a chance to do international work without having to take a break from their lives by going abroad,” she said.
Many clinicians volunteer with HealthRight for several years, she said, including one who has been with the HRC since its inception in 1993.
In addition to providing forensic evaluations and connecting clients to health and social services in their communities, the organization offers training on conducting evaluations as well as community awareness training to teach clinicians how to identify survivors of torture in their practices and what to do if they’re treating a survivor.
The organization hopes to broaden its impact even more in the future by expanding to other states where survivors have similar needs, Matos said.