CounselorsEmpowerACA Government Affairs Blog

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Jan 08, 2019

More counselors needed for children in U.S. border detention facilities, ACA CEO Says

American Counseling Association Chief Executive Officer Richard Yep recently sent a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, urging HHS to increase the number of mental health counselors at influx care facilities in the United States housing unaccompanied children who have crossed the U.S. border.

Yep’s December letter came in response to a Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report that found an insufficient number of mental health clinicians at the Tornillo influx care facility for refugee children at the Texas border. The OIG noted in that report that, in October, the facility had a ratio of one clinician for every 55 children at the facility (1:55), rather than the one clinician to 12 children (1:12) generally required by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).

The OIG report states: “…we are concerned that both the current staffing ratio and the ORR [Office of Refugee Resettlement] allowable budgeted staffing ratio are dangerously low. It is unclear how clinician staff at Tornillo could properly assess and respond to the UAC’s [unaccompanied alien children’s] mental health needs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, given the current and budgeted staffing ratios, particularly for a population believed to have experienced significant trauma.”

In his letter to the HHS Secretary, Yep pointed out that there are many qualified licensed professional counselors in Texas and elsewhere who could be working with the children at Tornillo and other similar facilities.

“Providing refugee children with adequate mental health counseling is the right thing to do,” Yep’s letter concludes. “And, because these children are here asking to live in the United States, it makes sense to help them survive the trauma of being separated from their parents and being held at an ORR influx facility.”

You can read the letter here.

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  1. 6 Carolyn Marion 08 Jan
    Please do the right thing. 
  2. 5 Paula Achenbach 08 Jan
    Can counselors volunteer even if we don’t speak Spanish. I am a Registered Play Therapist with trauma training 
  3. 4 Veronica O'Brien 13 Jan
    My question and/or observation or both is : This is an excellent opportunity for Graduate students in that area pursuing their practicum. Could this be opened up to this group of students?

    Also, Would it be possible to speed up the process for individuals who need to be certified as Spanish interpreters because of the crisis level of the situation? (1:55) sounds alarming. 
  4. 3 Kristin Harper 21 Jan
    Hi there,
    I would like to be able to volunteer this summer if possible.  I will be available in the months of June, July, and August.  I do speak Spanish and I have training in play therapy, art therapy, and music therapy.  I am a Mental Health Counselor Associate from the State of Washington, and my Supervisor is a Registered Play Therapist.  My phone number is 509-899-0010 and would love to speak with someone more about this.
  5. 2 Audrey Atkins 11 Apr

    i am a an LPC-Supervisor and would love to be able to help down there, even in a volunteer capacity. Please give me a call at 940-395-6586.

    Audrey Atkins, #65428TX
  6. 1 Brittany Trinite 28 Jul

    I know this is an old thread, but I am a board certified music therapist in Austin, TX. I know it is a long shot, but I would like to provide services via teletherapy, consultation, or by other means if it will help. I have clients here, but I care deeply about this crisis and want to support those in need. Please call if you feel I could be of help.



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