In 2006, the founder of Amani Family Services saw a need to embrace refugees and immigrants in the Fort Wayne area and address victims of crime. Since then, the organization has leaned into more expansive work designed to promote a sense of belonging and safety for refugees and immigrants through the provision of clinical services and advocacy.
Solutions and Services
Amani Family Services is a social services agency that has identified a gap in services and care for a key portion of Allen County’s population, as close to 10% of Allen County residents are foreign-born and there are over 70 languages spoken within Fort Wayne’s schools, and seeks to remedy that disparity. Often a more vulnerable population due to various barriers (i.e., language, access to resources, social capital, etc.), immigrants and refugees are overlooked when it comes to receiving culturally responsive services. The heart of this organization aims to honor the dignity of immigrants and refugees and improve their quality of life while integrating them into the greater community of Allen County. Currently, Amani Family Services provides service to over 2000 individuals and has greater outreach to over 25,000 individuals.
With programming focusing solely on serving immigrants and refugees, Amani Family Services offers victim care, family support, and mental health- and substance use-related care; comprehensive prevention and intervention strategies of these programs include education, advocacy, referral, interpretation services legal aid, and individual and/or group counseling. Additionally, Amani Family Services offers cultural competency trainings and leads in education around and support of radical inclusion of immigrants and refugees in communities.
Recognized for their innovative and successful work, in June 2023, Amani Family Services received an award from the American Psychiatric Association Foundation for their culturally competent services and advocacy for culturally diverse groups. In September 2023, Amani Family Services received a grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne for their Welcome Week initiative and advocacy within the community. The organization, in partnership with Gateways for Growth and the American Integration Council, also released the report “New Americans in Allen County: The Demographic and Economic Contributions of Immigrants in the County.”
Work with DMHA’s Community Catalyst Grant: As a recipient of the Division of Mental Health and Addiction’s Community Catalyst Grant, Amani Family Services has been able to use the award funds to provide interpretation training for two employees; this use of funds addresses the lack of appropriate interpretation services and aids in overcoming language barriers in the context of courts and government agencies.
While these milestones deserve to be celebrated for their progress in improving mental health care in the United States, there is still much work to be done to bring about a reality where stigma is not a barrier to care, high-quality treatment is accessible and affordable, and the mental health system functions optimally; the Indiana Mental Health Roundtable exists to move the needle toward this vision. Thank you for joining us on this journey.
60th Anniversary: The Community Mental Health Act of 1963
President John F. Kennedy, as part of his New Frontier platform, signed the Community Mental Health Act in 1963, centering the deinstitutionalization of people with serious mental illness (SMI) and changing the trajectory of mental health care in America. Once primarily comprised of state hospitals, mental health treatment often fell short of providing humane and appropriate care to especially vulnerable populations; the goal of this legislation was to give states ownership of mental health care through the creation and sustainment of local community mental health centers (CMHCs) and to significantly reduce the number of people living in psychiatric hospitals. The Indiana Council of Community Mental Health Centers provides an insightful summary of the history of Indiana’s CMHCs.
20th Anniversary: President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health
President George W. Bush recognized a need for further system change due to the amount of stigma around mental health, the treatment limitations and financial requirements around care, and the fragmentation present in the mental health system and, thus, created the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. In 2003, the Commission released a report underscoring six major nationwide goals: Americans understand that mental health is essential to overall health; mental health care is consumer and family driven; disparities in mental health services are eliminated; early mental health screening, assessment, and referral services are common practice; excellent mental health care is delivered and research is accelerated; and technology is used to access mental health care and information.
15th Anniversary: The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008
Authored by Patrick J. Kennedy, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act—also known as federal parity law—holds health insurance carriers accountable for providing equal access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment as is allowed for physical medical treatment, especially regarding and financial requirements and limitations. Under George W. Bush’s administration, the Parity Act was signed into law and originally applied to group health plans and health insurance; under Barack Obama’s administration, it expanded to pertain to individual health plans and coverage through the Affordable Care Act. This past September, Patrick J. Kennedy visited Butler University to speak about his work with parity and other issues surrounding mental health and substance use disorders.
Through a series of premieres across the state, Riley Children’s Health showcased their documentary Racing to Respond throughout October and November in an effort to increase awareness of the youth mental health crisis in Indiana and invite Hoosiers to learn about the statewide pediatric behavioral health plan that aims to respond to the critical needs of youth. Read about the Indianapolis Premiere.