Author ORCID Identifier

Date of Award

Spring 5-12-2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Public Health

First Advisor

Ashli Owen Smith

Second Advisor

Mary Helen O'Connor


The prevalence of mental health-related illnesses in refugee/immigrant/migrant (RIM) population is reportedly as high as 86% compared to 8% in the general population. This population faces significant barriers to accessing mental health services due to affordability, language barriers, limited health literacy, cultural stigma, and lack of transportation. Clarkston, Georgia has hosted more than 60,000 RIM individuals from 40 different countries. More than a half of Clarkston population (~51%) of about 13,000 are foreign born. Unfortunately, though 40% of those screened at Clarkston Community Health Center being reported as having at least one psychiatric diagnosis, mental health care in Clarkston is scarce. Therefore, in response to this overwhelming need, the Mental Health Alliance (MHA) aims to provide culturally- and linguistically responsive, and trauma-sensitive care by integrating mental health services within the pre-existing infrastructure at a large refugee resettlement organization [the International Rescue Committee (IRC)].


This research evaluated the effectiveness of MHA by documenting the number of clients served, client satisfaction with mental health services, and changes in clients' mental health outcomes collected through semi-structured interviews. These interviews (N=9) explored participants' mental health and experience, changes in self-reported health over the course of their treatment, and extent to which the program addressed barriers to accessing mental health care. Data was analyzed using rapid qualitative analysis using a thematic approach.


This study found that the settlement-integrated approach to mental health care significantly improved mental health outcomes, quality of life, and increased social support for study participants from RIM population in Clarkston GA. The program was well-received by participants and demonstrated the effectiveness of addressing barriers (transportation, language, stigma, affordability) and facilitators (cultural competence and trauma sensitive mental health care) to accessing mental health services. The study's findings suggest that this approach is a promising strategy for providing mental health services to refugees.


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