LCS Northwest Refugee Work Literally Goes Global

Beth Farmer at refugee camp in Greece

Beth Farmer is pictured with children at a refugee camp in Greece. Farmer is the Director of Refugee and Asylum Services for LCS Northwest’s North Puget Sound Region.

(Editor’s Note: Beth Farmer is the Director of Refugee and Asylum Services for LCS Northwest’s North Puget Sound Region. Andrew Kritovich is the Director of International Counseling and Community Services in SeaTac and Kent. They both started new roles with LCS Northwest July 1.)

For decades, LCS Northwest has provided mental health and resettlement services for refugees from across the globe. This summer, two of our professionals shared some of their knowledge in three different countries.

Beth Farmer and Andrew Kritovich are well known for their work counseling refugees, asylum seekers and survivors of torture for LCS Northwest in the Seattle area. They’ve built tools that other professionals use. Earlier this summer, they taught and learned from professionals in foreign countries. The trip was made possible by a grants from HealthRight, the European Union and the University of Zagreb.

“It gave me confidence in our services,” Farmer said of the three-week trip. “Our model is transportable to other places. We use a combination of evidence-base practices and practices based on evidence.”

Here is a brief summary of their trip.

Kiev, Ukraine – Farmer and Kritovich trained social workers and psychologists working with survivors of torture returning from combats zones in the Ukraine.

“We worked mostly with vets with a focus on both civilians and POWs,” Farmer said. “The situation with those being tortured is dire. The torture is by far some of the worst I’ve heard of including having people run through land mine fields.”

They focused on moving professionals from the traditional 50-minute psychologist counseling model to an ecological model. The ecological model is a holistic approach where you work on the client’s family, housing, employment and mental health.

“Andrew and I were both moved by the dedication of the staff and the amazing resilience of the people,” Farmer said. Kritovich came to United States as a refugee from the Ukraine.

Andrew Kritovich prepares to speak on Ukrainian radio

ICCS Director Andrew Kritovich prepares to speak on Ukrainian radio about torture. Kritovich is originally from the Ukraine and came to the United States as a refugee.

During the trip, he spoke on Ukrainian radio about torture. They both received commendations from military vets.

Athens, Greece – Farmer and Kritovich took part in the European Union meeting to create best practices for health screen of migrants. In their work for ICCS, they developed Refugee Health Screener 15 (RHS-15), a mental health screening tool for migrants. RHS-15 is recommended as a best practice.

During the trip to Greece, they spent time serving refugees in Athens and going to refugee camps. They prepared and served lunch to about 600 people in the city center. Greece’s borders are now closed. People are in a holding pattern, and the country’s economy is depressed.

“The situation in Greece is very bad and we were able to see firsthand the struggle both in the camps and in the city,” Farmer said. “People can’t go back and they can’t move forward.”

Zagreb, Croatia – Farmer and Kritovich conducted trainings on RHS-15 at the International Committee for the Red Cross at their reception center for migrants. They gave a lecture and two workshops for at the University of Zagreb for psychology and social work students and professors. Farmer said she was impressed with the ICRC.

“It’s a well thought out program,” Farmer said. “Even with 16 percent unemployment, there is a deep compassion from the Croatian people for what other people are going through.”

Tents at a refugee camp in Greece

Conditions at the refugee camps in Greece are difficult. Some people are living in tents out the outskirts of the camps.