Madison Common Council Votes to Support Mental Health Services at Kajsiab House

The Kajsaib House offers mental health services for the Hmong community (courtesy: Suab Hmong News)


Author: Will Kenneally

The Madison Common Council unanimously voted to provide $40,000 to help fund Hmong-based mental health services at the Kajsiab House and an associated Cambodian program.

The funding from the city is part of the $150,000 community leaders say is needed to keep the Kajsiab House open through the end of the year. It was announced this summer that a lack of funding was going to cause the center to close on Sept. 28.

CEO of the Hmong Institute Peng Her says the support from the city brings the center “very close” to its goal.

Ald. Shiva Bidar, who sponsored the legislation, urged unanimous support for the funding, saying that in its passing “we can show we’re going to stand with the community.”

For members of the community who use the center, access to the resources that the Kajsiab House provides is crucial.

Members of the Hmong community told stories of the help they received from the Kajsiab House

“I’m so sad [the announced closing] has left us with no home,” one member said via an interpreter. “I wanted to also let you know that without a home we are worried, we’re stressed. We’re lonely and I wanted to ask for your support.”

The culturally competent services that the Hmong community receives at the Kajsiab House is unlike mental health services they could find elsewhere. Physician Xia Vang who testified in support of the funding explains:

“We serve almost 200 and Hmong and Cambodian speaking patients. There have been times when our providers have struggled to provide optimal care for some of these vulnerable Southeast Asian patients,” she said. “Not only are they not English speaking, they also have low health literacy and they face significant social economic barriers such as lack of transportation.”

Physician Xia Vang testifies before the Madison Common Council

“Through its comprehensive, holistic and culturally competent services, Journey Mental Health Center has made the Kajsiab House and the Cambodian temple a second home a safety net for many of our patients,” Vang added.

The center’s previous home at Journey Mental Health Center announced in August that it was no longer able to financially support the Kajsiab House. Though the Kajsiab House is close to being able to fund itself through the rest of the year, advocates stressed the need to fund the center in the long term.

“I think it’s important that you all allocate this funding to keep them going into December, but that’s not enough,” said Kazbuag Vaj, co-executive director of Freedom Inc. “It’s enough that you need to figure out what we need for 2019 because their devastation and their depression and their mental wellness — it doesn’t go away in December.”

The center plans to have an open house this Friday, where they will announce their final funding numbers and a new location where they plan to move the center.