New Mainers Strategic Planning Forum

The New Mainers Forum was one of four strategic planning forums hosted by the Maine Behavioral Health Workforce Development Collaborative throughout the year to address service gaps and needs within various segments of the population throughout Maine.

The panel represented:

  • Refugee & Immigration Services at Catholic Charities
  • The City of Portland Refugee Services Program
  • Community Financial Literacy
  • The New Mainers Resource Center at Portland Adult Ed.

The panelists presented their programs, services and data on the current environment for immigrants and asylum seekers in Maine. It was a lively discussion followed by three work groups which addressed perceived barriers; suggested policy changes or treatment approaches; and workforce training needs.


The primary barriers identified were language, literacy and cultural differences. Each group identified a lack of understanding and awareness of issues on both the provider side and the client side. Also, fear, stigma and a lack of information about available resources on the part of the new Mainers exists. The lack of insurance coverage and other financial constraints present barriers to utilizing the existing health care system. The cultural barriers tend to run deeper, that is, cultural norms, family customs, privacy concerns and faith practices that are foreign to the provider.

Policies or Treatment Approaches

In terms of needed policies, it was identified that curricula at schools and universities need to reflect multicultural competency; behavioral health needs to be integrated into primary care practices, as primary care is likely the first place clients will seek services; an understanding that the regulations may vary, for example the HIPPA used in the U.S. is different than the privacy policy in Somalia. Collaboration and communication within and among state and city services needs to be clear, consistent and contiguous. Also, because it takes time to develop trusting relationships, which are key to engaging clients into treatment, existing insurance reimbursements typically have restrictions related to the length of time in treatment. On the treatment side, it needs to be trauma-informed and evidence-based with culturally appropriate clinical assessment and follow-up. Community partnerships should be developed to accommodate outreach versus in-office visits, as well as transportation gaps. It was reported there is a gap in treatment for the 16- to 20-year-old population. More collaborative funding is needed. And finally, it was suggested that workplaces hire multicultural staff.

Behavioral Health Workforce Training Needs

It was recommended that cultural competency and language skills training be required for all staff. Related to this is the ability of providers to work with interpreters. Incorporate cultural needs into mental health first aid practices. Bring cultural trainers to the workplace. Accommodate cultural traditions for employees - this supports the staff and those they serve - and invite other professionals and people working with various cultures to staff meetings and supervision groups. Provide awareness training on tribal issues and more information about available resources for both the community and providers. Develop mentoring programs within schools and businesses, "cultural brokerages," elders working with youth.

Finally, the audience agreed that they would have appreciated more time with the panel for Q&A and discussion.

To learn more about the other three strategic planning forums, please click below: