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Critics decry long-distance counselling for migrant teens

FILE - In this Monday, May 6, 2019 file photo, migrant children stand outside the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children in Homestead, Fla. The U.S. government is providing long-distance video counseling to teens housed at the country's largest migrant detention center as officials struggle to accommodate increasing numbers of minors illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Some mental health experts and human rights advocates say that may not be the best way to help young people coping with trauma. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

HOMESTEAD, Fla. — The U.S. government is providing long-distance video counselling to teens housed at the country’s largest child migrant detention centre as officials struggle to accommodate increasing numbers of minors illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

A private company contracted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to run the centre in Homestead, Florida, is piloting the program and has hired clinical counsellors and case managers in Texas, about 1,600 miles (2,575 kilometres) away.

Comprehensive Health Services says it has had to hire counsellors from Texas because it hasn’t been able to attract enough candidates from the Miami area.

Some mental health experts and human rights advocates say video counselling is the wrong way to help the young people, many of whom have been traumatized by violence, deprivation and illness on their journey north.

Adriana Gomez Licon, The Associated Press