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News from the Centers: June, 2010

June 12, 2010

News from U.S. Torture Treatment Centers

Denver Center Closes 

Pius Kamau asked on Huffington Post “How can a center that has been valiantly fighting to mend broken souls from the four corners of the earth end up closing its doors?” He was talking about  Denver’s Rocky Mountain Survivors Center. This past fall, the Center’s home page was replaced by a sad note indicating that the program is no longer providing direct services. Until recently it went on to say “If you are a survivor seeking services, please visit our website  for information on other resources that may be available to assist you,” but the truth is that – as in most parts of the country – there’s damn little out there.
             The loss of this well-known treatment center is a tragedy. Since its founding in 1996, the Rocky Mountain Survivors Center has assisted more than 1,500 survivors of torture and war trauma and their families “to heal and rebuild their lives through asylum legal representation, healthcare and therapeutic counseling, social support services and English language training.”
            The Denver Post reported in early November that the Center had lost its federal funding. It noted that the same thing has happened to programs in Atlanta, Jersey City, Chicago, San Diego, and Detroit, and that a program in Philadelphia has also been forced to close. The Post quoted Aisha Gray, a spokesperson for the Office of Refugee Resettlement, in the Department of Health and Human Services, as stating that the small number of centers for torture victims throughout the country “are expected to work toward sustainability and diversification of resources.” For the most part, this ORR funding is the only game in town, and it currently totals only about $10.6 million per year, spread now among 27 programs in 16 states.  

California Torture Center 
Calls for Full Funding

 Another Center, Survivors of Torture International in San Diego, is calling on supporters to demand that Congress fully fund U.S. torture treatment programs. “The bipartisan Torture Victims Relief Act authorizes Congress to allocate up to $25 million for grants to domestic torture treatment programs…But for years, Congress has only appropriated a little under half of the possible funding: in fiscal year 2010, the amount was $11.088 million…Several programs were forced to close last year (in Nebraska, Philadelphia and Denver) or drastically scale back services due to lack of funding. Those that remain open report long waiting lists for services.” 

Minnesota Program Marks 25th Year

The Center for Victims of Torture, one of the nation’s oldest and largest treatment programs, marks its 25th Anniversary this year, having helped more than 18,000 torture survivors to reclaim their lives. In addition to centers in both Minneapolis and St. Paul, CVT is now an international organization with programs in Africa and the Middle East.

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