Kajsiab House

Members of Madison's Southeast Asian community came together last year for an event to announce a new location for Kajsiab House, a Hmong- and Cambodian-focused mental health care and community center that had been housed at the Mendota Mental Health Institute.

After the Madison City Council agreed to take proposals for $115,000 in city funding to serve Southeast Asian elders, it’s unclear whether the group that pushed for the competitive process will seek the funding.

Doua Vang, executive director of the Southeast Asian Healing Center, said, “We would like to. It depends on how complicated it is.”

Madison got more involved in funding services for the Southeast Asian community after Journey Mental Health Center shuttered Kajsiab House in September. For 18 years, Kajsiab provided meals, activities and access to mental health care for Hmong and Cambodian elders.

With funding help from the city and Dane County, the Hmong Institute partnered with Medicaid provider Anesis Therapy to pick up where Kajsiab House left off. And Vang, formerly Kajsiab House’s director, remained in charge of the effort.

But soon after Kajsiab House moved from its space at Mendota Mental Health Institute to temporary space at the Catholic Multicultural Center on South Park Street, there was a falling out between Vang and his supporters and the Institute and Anesis.

Vang then started the Southeast Asian Healing Center across the street from the Catholic Multicultural Center in the offices of social justice group Freedom Inc., and the new incarnation of Kajsiab House, called Hmoob Kaj Siab, later moved into space at the Life Center Madison church near the Beltline and Stoughton Road.

As of February, city staffers were recommending that the city continue funding the partnership between the Hmong Institute and Anesis, but during a Feb. 26 City Council meeting, activists with Freedom Inc. repeatedly interrupted the council’s work to press council members to issue a request for proposals for the money, which the council did.

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That RFP was issued May 13. Proposals from interested service providers are due June 14.

Vang said his center could partner with a local mental health provider to apply for the funds. Anesis owner and founder Myra McNair said her agency will not apply, although the CEO of the Hmong Institute, Peng Her, said he will.

As of mid-May, both Hmoob and the Southeast Asian Healing Center were open or providing services Monday through Friday.

Vang said his center has more than 100 clients, and McNair said in an email that her program was “going strong still, providing mental health service and case management for about 85 Southeast Asian seniors (Hmong and Cambodian)” and also taking families and children.

Vang said he’s not interested in seeing Hmoob fail and that the Southeast Asian Healing Center would continue with or without city funding.

Madison Community Development Director Jim O’Keefe said Freedom Inc. was working with a provider that could provide Vang’s center with access to Medicaid funding.

“I will be surprised if both groups, and maybe others, don’t respond to our RFP,” he said.

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