Health care providers prepare for potential influx of Syrian refugees

     People help a wheelchair user board a train with others, heading toward Serbia, at the transit camp for refugees near the southern Macedonian town of Gevgelija early this month. Several thousand migrants and refugees enter daily from Greece into Macedonia on their way through the Balkans toward the more prosperous European Union countries. More than 500,000 people have arrived this year in EU seeking sanctuary or jobs, sparking the EU's biggest refugee emergency in decades. (Boris Grdanoski/AP Photo)

    People help a wheelchair user board a train with others, heading toward Serbia, at the transit camp for refugees near the southern Macedonian town of Gevgelija early this month. Several thousand migrants and refugees enter daily from Greece into Macedonia on their way through the Balkans toward the more prosperous European Union countries. More than 500,000 people have arrived this year in EU seeking sanctuary or jobs, sparking the EU's biggest refugee emergency in decades. (Boris Grdanoski/AP Photo)

    The U.S. is planning to accept more than 10,000 Syrian refugees next year, and health care providers in the region are already preparing to care for their medical needs. They expect that many of them will need mental health care.

    Dr. Matthew Behme treats refugees every day as head of the Einstein Center for Refugee Wellness in Philadelphia. He expects the population of Syrian refugees to have many of the same issues as his patients hailing from Iraq or Bhutan. Many of the physical symptoms he sees in his office are related to stressors, he said.

    “These individuals have gone through things that no human being should go through, and issues like PTSD are exceedingly common,” he explained.

    Treating refugees takes extra time and resources, Behme said, such as translators and social services. And physicians need to look out for physical symptoms that are really caused by stress.

    “Headaches and abdominal pain, back pain … and when we get to the heart of the issue, we find that these are often physical manifestations of the severe stress that they have endured and continue to endure,” he said.

    It’s not clear yet how many Syrian refugees will end up in the Philadelphia region.

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