square bulletOur History with Trauma Informed Care

February 8, 2019

From Holden Leung, MSW, CHief Executive Officer, Asian Health & Service Center

Many years ago, when I first joined the mental health clinic and served as one of the mental health counselors, there was a frail, senior Chinese lady who finally came to seek help from our clinic, which was located at a church building. She had had some mental health issues for years—but seeking help and visits to the doctors were difficult due to her limited English, on top of feeling shy and embarrassed. At a friend’s recommendation, she came to the church to seek help because she heard there was a doctor who speaks Chinese. Over the years, I found that many people like this lady, keep delaying seeking help. Family members have to tolerate the symptoms and live with the patient while the patient keeps getting admitted and discharged repeatedly from hospitals for acute care. As a result, I began to develop an Integrated and Holistic Services Model from the church basement with a handful of volunteers and it has grown to what is now the Asian Health & Service Center (AHSC)

We learned that many of our patients had an immigrant background, that tough love or treatment or care does not help those with trauma. You can’t just get over trauma and move on. You need training and guidance to understand how trauma changes the brain.

Our Integrated & Holistic Services Model was developed to help us realize our vision of reducing health inequity and improving health care for all Asians. One of its key values is to “engage clients in a culturally and linguistically sensitive environment before they need immediate health related services.” We pride ourselves on being a culturally specific health care provider with an emphasis on being a trauma-informed environment—an environment that is intended to be more supportive, comprehensively integrated, and empowering for trauma survivors.

Our new Health Center in Lents was specially designed in treating our clients/patients at every step of the Recovery Model, which includes pre-treatment, treatment, and post-treatment. We have community programing to engage clients, public health programing to empower clients, and health clinics to serve clients comprehensive needs including a primary care clinic, a state-certified outpatient behavioral health clinic, and an alternative medicine clinic. When clients/patients first walk in, they immediately see our peaceful Sand Garden, which is designed to help them feel calm and at ease.

All of our mental health staff and psychiatrists are bilingual, which means they have the same background and understanding of patients who have experienced the trauma of immigrating to a new environment.

The Future

As new programs continue to be developed, like the Asian Cancer Resource and Support Service Center, we realize the importance of trauma-informed care in the health care industry. At our grand opening in August 2018, our founder and Chairman of the Board reiterated our vision at AHSC.

“After 35 years, we will finally claim our birthright of nobility and become a model for those who will follow, including the person watching us in the mirror, and one day, we will look at ourselves in the mirror.  What will we see?  We will see ourselves with people of all cultures, walking on the bridge together, eating lunches, practicing Tai Chi, taking lessons together.  We will see mentally ill smile.  We will see little children running, dancing, laughing.  If that is not enough to see, what is?” –Dr. Erik Szeto