Khmer Health Advocates (KHA) was founded with a mission to care for the health
needs of survivors of the Mahandorai (the Cambodian holocaust), and their families.
The KHA torture treatment program is one of the first programs for the torture
victims in the United States. As the only Cambodian health organization in the
United States, KHA provides care for people in Connecticut and Western Massachusetts,
and advocates for survivors across the nation.
Khmer Health Advocates was founded in Connecticut in 1982 by Theanvy Kuoch,
a Cambodian woman survivor, and three American nurses, Mary F Scully, Irene
Bjorkland, and Lynn Kirby who worked in refugee camps in Thailand. KHA was founded
to address the critical health needs of the thousands of Cambodians who had
fled a decade of war, starvation, and torture in their homeland, and had arrived
as refugees in the United States. Traumatized and suffering from multiple health
problems, the refugees needed special help to cope with life in their new country
and new language, and to begin the process of healing. KHA's Cambodian and American
professional health workers stepped in to provide care to individuals and their
entire families, in the Khmer language, and in a culturally sensitive manner.
KHA's programs and services have received local, national, and international
recognition and financial support from foundations, The United Nations Voluntary
Fund for Victims of Torture (UNVFVT), government agencies, and individuals.
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Like other survivors of war and concentration camps, a large number of Cambodian
refugees suffer from serious mental and physical health problems. Post traumatic
stress disorder, depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder are common, and
hypertension, headache, digestive and respiratory diseases, fatigue, and physical
signs of premature aging greatly reduce the quality of life of survivors. Effects
of past trauma combined with the huge challenge of adjusting to life in America
has led to severe social problems among Cambodians as well substance abuse,
domestic violence, formation of youth gangs, suicide, and the breakdown of family
These problems do not lend themselves to quick solutions. They require long-term,
in-depth care and counseling. Moreover, the number of patients presenting themselves
with symptoms of Post traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) does not decrease with
the passage of time, and an individual's symptoms can increase in severity as
he or she grows older. The need for KHA's services remains strong among Cambodians
in Southern New England. KHA's commitment to the Cambodian-American community
remains just as strong. To address these needs, KHA operates one of the first
treatment programs for torture victims in the United States and is now developing
a model program for the use of telemedicine, which may eventually assure access
to care for survivors across the United States.
Making a Difference Since 1982, KHA has provided innovative outreach
and therapeutic care to Cambodians living in New England.