Neu K and the Southeast Asian Healing Center: In Service to Elders (Part 1 of 2)

Doua Vang

Doua Vang, a former administrator at Kijsiab House, founded Neu K LLC and the Southeast Asian Healing Center to serve Hmong and other Southeast Asian elders.

by Jonathan Gramling

Doua Vang Worked at Kajsiab House as an administrator for about 10 years before it closed down in 2018. It had been founded by Journey Mental Health in the mid 1990s when a shift in government policy impacted Hmong households. When the Hmong emigrated to the U.S. beginning in the late 1990s as they were pushed out of Laos because they aided U.S. troops during the Vietnam War, they were given special treatment by the U.S. government. One of those benefits was Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Tis allowed Hmong families to remain relatively intact as three generations of a family lived together and the elders were taken care of by the adult children and their children. All of that changed.

“Kajsiab House was established in 2000,” Vang said. “Part of the W2 Program way back when it was started, ended AFDC. The state required that able-bodied people in the family must go to work or training or go to school. Journey Mental Health found that there were elders in the Hmong and Cambodian communities who need someone at home to care for them. In order to allow people in the family to go to work or participate in job training to meet the requirement of W2, we worked with the county to provide seed money to lease the space at Mendota. We brought elders into the program and then we provided the services. Instead of having services cater to each individual, we had the service in-house. We would bring in the doctors, nurses and social workers in to serve them.”

Kajsiab House was the center of Hmong community functions, especially for the elders. In 2018, Kajsiab House closed its doors and the Hmong community worked hard to fill the service gap.

“When Kajsiab House was closed, we had 2-3 elders who died by suicide,” Vang said. “It was very sad that we were not able to provide the services that they needed. We eventually had two elders die by suicide and one died due to a lack of services. His diabetes was severe. And he lacked the treatment that he needed. Due to the lack of services many people suffered and a few of them died.”

Vang stepped in to help fill the void and started Neu K LLC and the Southeast Asian Healing Center with an assist from Freedom, Inc.

“Many elders lost their services due to funding and there wasn’t space for them to go to. We were going from one place to another. We were very fortunate that Freedom Inc. agreed to shelter us for 1-2 years until we were able to work with a CCS program with Dr. Henderson and Sankofa. She wanted to work with us and enroll some elders into CCS. Freedom Inc. gave us start-up money, about $20,000 to $30,000 to look for space.”

By this time, the COVID-19 pandemic had hit in 2020 and people were sheltering in place. Neu K rented office space on Madison’s far east side and offered services remotely.

“When the pandemic hit, we leased a space for staff who could travel and provide services on call or helping to coordinate services for Dr. Coleman’s appointments and help our clients navigate through the hard times,” Vang said. “We connected them with health care. How do they get health care services when they need them? We educated them about safety. We pretty much worked with them online for a year until we got the space here.”

Next Issue: The Services of Neu K and SEAHC