health & social services

What We Do

The Health & Social Services Department Staff supports immigrant and refugee families to improve the quality of their lives through access to health care, social services, community building, advocacy, and building bridges to health care and social service providers. Our current programs include:

  • Continuum of Care Refugee Program
  • Health Insurance Enrollment Program
  • Asian Women’s Health Program
  • Safe Families Program
  • Roots of Happiness: Elders Health & Wellness Program
  • Foundational English for New Americans

 Continuum of Care Program:  Refugees are people outside of their country who are unable or unwilling to return home because they fear serious harm. Refugee status or asylum may be granted to people who have been persecuted or fear they will be persecuted on account of race, religion, nationality, and/or membership in a particular social group or political opinion. The Continuum of Care (COC) Program, provides support after the initial resettlement period to help refugees transition to life in Philadelphia and achieve self-sufficiency. Through case management and interpretation/translation services, staff in the COC Program act as “bridge builders,” and help refugees to meet needs by connecting with and navigating mainstream services. Case management services focus on connecting refugees with English as a Second Language classes, job training programs, small business support programs, and employment services. Additionally, the COC Program hosts monthly Community Meetings in order to share resources and information that are beneficial to many recently resettled refugees. This program also includes classes on leadership development, financial literacy, and small business development. The COC Program currently targets Burmese, Karen, Chin, and Bhutanese refugees who have been in the United States between 6 months and 5 years. This is a joint project of SEAMAAC, the Nationalities Service Center, and HIAS Pennsylvania. This program is made possible through the financial support of the Pennsylvania Office of Refugee Resettlement, the Department of Health & Human Services Administration for Children and Families Office of Refugee Resettlement, and the PEW Charitable Trusts.


Health Insurance Enrollment ProgramThe Affordable Care Act (ACA) provided a long-awaited opportunity for many Americans to finally get affordable health insurance. SEAMAAC recognized the ACA as a turning point for our communities. With a coalition of partners, we conducted a community assessment to prepare for the first ACA Open Enrollment Period. The results of this community assessment helped us design appropriate enrollment and community education/outreach strategies. SEAMAAC and partners created ACA outreach and multilingual educational materials. We designed ACA educational workshops, and conducted 16 workshops educating over 720 immigrant/refugee community members about the ACA. We have educated another 1,300 community members about the ACA through general community outreach, and nearly 30,000 through media sources. 

Picture1 In collaboration with Jefferson University and Nationalities Services Center, we conducted a Certified Application Counselor (CAC) Training for bilingual staff and community leaders ensuring that there were CACs in Philadelphia bilingual in English and Mandarin, Vietnamese, Khmer, Indonesian, Laotian, Hmong, Thai, Nepali, Burmese, Karen, and Chin. SEAMAAC and partners also engaged local organizations that received the Navigator grant to ensure that Navigators held office hours in immigrant and refugee communities.

Picture3From October 2013 through March 2014, SEAMAAC CACs and Navigators from navigator organizations assisted over 454 immigrant/refugee families apply for health insurance through the ACA Marketplace. SEAMAAC continues to assist families with exemptions from the individual mandate and to apply for health insurance through CHIP, Medicaid, Medicare, and ACA Special Enrollment Periods. We are working with partners to prepare for the next Open Enrollment Period to begin November 15, 2014. This project is made possible through support of the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum.  


Asian Women’s Health Program:  SEAMAAC’s Asian Women’s Health Program trains volunteers from Philadelphia’s Chinese, Indonesian, Vietnamese, and Cambodian communities to plan and facilitate small-group education sessions on women’s health needs with their peers. These “Peer Educators” in collaboration with SEAMAAC staff assist medically underserved women to access free or low-cost women’s health screenings, (including mammograms, clinical breast exams, gynecologic exams, and general wellness screenings), at partner medical providers. SEAMAAC supports women to navigate the health care system through scheduling appointments, locating their doctor’s office, attending appointments, advocating for language access, helping them to apply for health insurance, and supporting women with follow-up care needs. This program is made possible through the financial support of Susan G. Komen Philadelphia Affiliate and the BJs Charitable Foundation.

Safe Families Program:  Domestic violence is often wrapped in silence, and is notoriously underreported by most Asian immigrants and refugees. According to the Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence, 41-61% of Asian women report experiencing physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime.  In 2011, SEAMAAC conducted an in-depth needs assessment of domestic violence in Philadelphia’s Asian immigrant communities. This assessment included conducting a literature review, examining projects that address domestic violence in Asian communities around the United States, and conducting focus groups with members from Philadelphia’s Asian communities and local domestic violence service providers. Through this process, SEAMAAC’s Safe Families Program emerged to address domestic violence in Philadelphia’s recently resettled Burmese and Bhutanese refugee communities and in the Chinese immigrant community. This new program is designed to raise awareness and engage immigrant and refugee community members around the issue of domestic violence. This program is funded by the Valentine Foundation, and has a strong partnership with the Lutheran Settlement House’s Bilingual Domestic Violence Program.

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Roots of Happiness: Elders Health & Wellness Program:  Roots of Happiness (ROH) creates a positive experience of aging for Southeast (SE) Asian immigrant and refugee elders by improving their mental health and emotional well-being. ROH targets Vietnamese, Lao, Chinese, and Hmong elders (aged 60+) in Philadelphia. ROH includes individualized support through case management and an array of group-based activities:  the Elders Gathering; the Elders Council; and Healthy Living Workshops:

The Elders Gathering is a weekly group program that takes place Tuesdays from 9 to 11am at the Philadelphia Praise Center at 1701 McKean Street. The Gathering  replicates the model of a traditional SE Asian communal meal offered in a safe and welcoming space. Similar to a community breakfast, it is an opportunity for elders to “break bread” and build fellowship with one another. This program enables isolated low-income elders to build community and connect to other services in a culturally appropriate manner.  The dedication of the elders to this program is evident.  During each Gathering, many arrive early and stay to the very end, chat with friends, play Chinese Chess, bring in new elders, and learn community news.  Each Gathering includes a culturally relevant and nutritious meal as well as community announcements in three languages (Vietnamese, Lao, and English). Outreach Workers are on hand to help with any individual needs that someone may have.  


The Elders Council is a multi-ethnic group of ROH participants who volunteer their time and energy to help plan and implement ROH activities.  The six active members meet monthly after the Gathering. Elders Council members are involved in ROH decision-making, including program design and planning activities.  In addition to helping staff to identify and prioritize community needs, the Council also assists in conducting workshops and providing community updates.  The Council members have an abundance of experience and expertise to share with the community. They are a model for their communities, as carriers of culture and wisdom.


Elders Council Members Ms. Ba Nguyen, Staff Hanna Do and Board Secretary Giang Nguyen

Healthy Living Workshops are organized around the topics of physical and emotional health, and social or community needs.  These educational sessions enable ROH participants to receive vital information on topics like Alzheimer’s, depression, gambling, domestic violence, and nutrition. Participants learn about preventive medical and behavioral health care in a culturally appropriate manner.  The specific topics are identified by Elders Council members as needs within their communities, and presenters are sought from relevant organizations.  SEAMAAC Outreach Workers coordinate the workshops and provide interpretation during them. On average, SEAMAAC holds 2 workshops a month scheduled outside of the Gathering.

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ROH is currently funded by the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services (DBHIDS), the Patricia Kind Family Foundation (PKFF), the Barra Foundation, Wells Fargo Corporate Giving, and the PNC Foundation.


Foundational English for New Americans:  English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction is central to the mission of SEAMAAC. Despite 100% cuts to government funding for ESL in 2011, SEAMAAC has continued to meet the community needs. Through a partnership with volunteer ESL tutors and in-kind support from SEAMAAC, over 100 immigrants/refugees continue to receive free ESL instruction at SEAMAAC. Please contact us for current class offerings and schedules.