Special Projects Fund

Project Title

Western New York Center for Survivors of Torture

Grant Amount


Priority Area

Special Projects Fund

Date Awarded

July 15, 2013


Western NY






The greater Buffalo area is the largest center of resettled refugees and asylum seekers in New York State and is among the largest in the nation.

Many refugees are survivors of torture, which is generally defined as “the intentional infliction of severe mental or physical pain or suffering by or with the consent of the state authorities for a specific purpose.” The physical and mental effects of torture may require lifelong treatment, surgery, and recovery. Buffalo is home to an estimated 15,000 torture survivors, yet no torture survivor services are offered anywhere in upstate New York. NYHealth awarded Jewish Family Services of Buffalo and Erie County (JFS) a grant to create the Western New York Center for Survivors of Torture (the Center), the first of its kind in upstate New York.

Under this grant, the Center offered an interdisciplinary treatment program to address the complex medical, psychological, immigration, legal, and social service needs of torture survivors in western New York. The Center received training, technical assistance, and longitudinal evaluation services from New York City’s HealthRight International, an international leader in torture survivor treatment. JFS began by establishing a comprehensive provider team and training 75 medical, mental health, social service, and legal providers about torture, the multiple recovery and rehabilitation challenges that survivors face, and how to holistically address survivors’ unique needs. JFS reached eligible torture survivors living in the area to inform them of available services, and provided rehabilitative treatment to torture victims who accessed the project’s medical and/or mental health services. JFS also collaborated with HealthRight International to collect data on patient outcomes and patient demographics, including the type of torture suffered and clients’ sex, country of origin, and immigration status.

The project was implemented in Buffalo, but also received referrals from peer agencies in greater Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, and Binghamton, all major refugee resettlement locations. Over time, the project trained care coordinators in these communities to enhance their long-term service capacity.