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Trauma center responds to needs of displaced hurricane victims

by Jane Shaskan - October 3, 2005

State behavioral health personnel, in an initiative coordinated by two UConn Health Center experts, are counseling and supporting displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina now living in Connecticut.

“We have been able to help about 150 households,” says Kathryn Dean, project administrator for the Department of Psychiatry’s Center for Trauma Response, Recovery, and Preparedness at the Health Center. Dean put together the program with psychiatry department psychologist Kathie Moffitt.

The field counselors are behavioral health team members from the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and the Department of Children and Families Behavioral Health Crisis Response System.

“The services we are providing include psychological first aid, compassionate support, and general information, as well as specific information about available behavioral health and social service resources,” Dean says. “We are currently working with the Charter Oak Chapter of the American Red Cross.”

Dean, Moffitt, and behavioral health team members are also providing support to Red Cross caseworkers helping individual families deal with their particular circumstances. “Some of our support takes place while we are pouring coffee, carrying boxes, and organizing handouts,” says Moffitt.

More than 30 crisis response team members from behavioral health agencies statewide are involved, says Julian Ford, director of the trauma center.

Ford says counseling for emergency response personnel is also important. “In the course of their duties, first responders are themselves affected by the stress and trauma of dire circumstances and witnessing people’s suffering,” he notes.

According to Dean, having an adequate number of trained volunteers “is a key step toward readiness for deployment to any recovery site nationwide.”

She says the behavioral health team members were recruited during this crisis for Red Cross training in disaster services and mass care. Six team members have accepted two-week deployments to recovery sites in Louisiana and Texas.

The Center for Trauma Response, Recovery and Preparedness was developed in response to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, in partnership with the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, the Department of Children and Families, and the Yale University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Yale Child Study Center.  

It provides oversight of five behavioral health regional crisis response teams trained to provide crisis intervention services to affected individuals and communities.

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