“The Applied Mental Health Research Group (AMHR), a collaboration of faculty within the Center for Refugee and Disaster Response and the Department of Mental Health, has received an award from the Victims of Torture Fund at USAID to help improve services to torture-affected populations internationally. The Victims of Torture Fund is based on a mandate from the US congress to provides funds for improving the wellbeing and functioning of torture survivors and others affected by torture (such as family members) globally. Funds are awarded each year and are normally limited to organizations providing direct services to the torture-affected. However, USAID recognizes that the needs of these populations can vary, and that there is also much uncertainty about what constitute appropriate and effective interventions, particularly when transferring interventions developed in Western countries to other cultures and to low resource environments. Therefore, in recent years USAID has enlisted the assistance of AMHR faculty to address these uncertainties and thereby try to enhance service providers’ program quality and impact. This latest award of $4m over 4 years will enable AMHR to continue and expand their work in this field.
Under previous awards from VTF, AMHR have provided technical assistance to NGOs serving torture-affected populations in Mexico, Guatemala, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Iraq, Haiti, and Sri Lanka. Depending on the situation, this assistance has taken the form of conducting designing and conducting needs assessments, designing and assisting with implementation and monitoring of interventions, and/or assessing the impact of those interventions using scientific methods including randomized controlled trials. In parallel with this technical support has been the ongoing development of a new approach to program monitoring and evaluation (M and E). AMHR faculty have expanded previous approaches to M and E to produce a single integrated approach that encompasses program Design, Implementation, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DIME). As AMHR has worked with NGOs (as part of the VTF activities and in the context of other projects) the group has refined this approach to make it suitable for use in low resource environments while retaining scientific rigor, as evidenced by the scientific publications that have emerged from work based on this approach.
Under the new award AMHR will continue to use the DIME approach with organizations assisting torture-affected populations around the world, in order to better understand their needs and develop appropriate and effective interventions. At present the designated sites include Iraq, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Burundi, and Afghanistan, however there other sites may also be served in later years of the award. The DIME methods themselves will be codified and published in the form of manuals and descriptions in scientific publications, as will be the data resulting from its use in various populations. AMHR faculty will also conduct comparative analyses of the data from past and future sites, to better understand what are the global commonalities in terms of problems, needs and the best ways to assist these populations. The intent of this work is to assist those planning projects among newly affected populations in the future, by providing them with information on what needs are most likely to be important and what interventions are most likely to be effective.”
-Paul Bolton, MBBS, DMTH, MPH, MSc, Associate Research Scientist in the Center for Refugee and Disaster Response