Coalition Works with Oregon Legislature to Extend Refugee Services

by | Jun 5, 2020 | Advocacy, Refugees & Immigrants

Senior District Director Salah Ansary (right) advocated for HB 2508, AKA Welcoming Refugees bill, in the 2019 Oregon Legislative Assembly. He is pictured with bill advocates (from left) Hussein Al Baiaty, Toc Soneoulay-Gillespie and Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer, who co-sponsored the bill, which passed with bipartisan support. The bill increases case management services for refugees.

A collaborative effort led by faith-based organizations, including LCS Northwest, and community leaders convinced the Oregon Legislative Assembly to invest in refugees. The legislature funded services that connect refugees with needed resources to rebuild their lives in a new country.

House Bill 2508, commonly known as the Welcoming Refugees Bill, passed in June 2019 with bi-partisan support. It funds case management services to better connect refugees with the right support services. The bill extends case management assistance from the federally-funded 90 days to a maximum of 24 months.

“This is a new model of service,” said Lisa Colella Danlly, our Refugee Community Services Program Director in Portland. “It recognizes that having stronger building blocks up front for refugees increases their likelihood of long-term success and acclimation to life in the US.”

Lisa’s team started enrolling refugees for extended case management in early 2020, and more than 100 have signed up so far. LCS Northwest can serve up to 350 refugees over a two-year period.

Case management services are tailored to meet specific needs. Those needs can include health care, affordable housing, transportation, support groups, jobs training, employment and ESL. Some needs are life skills building such as parenting, budgeting and understanding U.S. culture.

The launch of extended case management in 2020 was timely. Staff are fielding questions about the COVID-19 pandemic and helping refugees shelter in place by assisting with issues such as online schooling, picking up school lunch and dealing with employment issues.

“I am glad that Extended Case Management came on board at this time of need and appreciate the action our agency took to make it possible to serve clients remotely,” commented Case Manager Lul Abdulle.

Lisa noted that just a handful of states provide case management support for refugees. LCS Northwest and its partner agencies, Catholic Charities of Oregon and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, are working with researchers to document the effectiveness of extended case management. The hope is that Oregon will continue to be a leader in this work and other states will adopt this model.