Category 4 Hurricane Harvey hit the coast of Texas on Friday, August 25, 2017. By Wednesday, some areas had received over 47 inches of rain and flooding, and by Thursday, August 31, 2017, the storm had killed at least 44 people and damaged or destroyed 48,700 homes. 350,000 people, many uninsured, have registered for disaster assistance.
Disasters like Hurricane Harvey devastate young and old, partners and families, immigrants, refugees, and native residents alike. They are people who have lost their homes and businesses, as well as those who are providing help, even as they experience their own trauma. For many, the fear, trauma, and loss experienced during Hurricane Harvey will result in emotional scars that may last for years to come. Long after the water has receded and homes have been rebuilt, the stress and anxiety that accompany disasters of this size and scope will remain. Research indicates that suicide rates, substance abuse, and violence frequently increase in the aftermath of community-wide disasters. Putting life back together in the form of a “new normal” is an emotionally overwhelming process. Our project will focus on communities in the affected area to help minimize the “disaster after the disaster” and get community members back on their feet.
Real Medicine Foundation has extensive experience in psychological trauma support and is collaborating with Organizational Resilience International (a partner since Hurricane Katrina) to implement a 12-month psychological support project for affected communities.
RMF is collaborating with Dr. Kevin Becker and his team at Organizational Resilience International, who we worked with during our Hurricane Katrina relief efforts in 2005.
RMF believes that disaster survivors are most drawn to, and best served, by the natural supports in their community. Thus, we will also partner with local community members and relevant local institutions. By enlisting community members themselves to work alongside us in the recovery process, we thereby further their empowerment and recovery.
Our plan for providing psychological support to the victims/survivors of Hurricane Harvey will follow the engagement model RMF has used successfully around the world over the past 12 years. We will establish relationships with local community organizations and then work with them to A) understand their specific need, B) identify what resources they already have in place (so as not to duplicate services), C) offer resources we have that meet the need, and D) execute a deployment plan.
We anticipate that our team of highly trained disaster mental health professionals will make multiple trips to the region over the next 12 months. Our visits will be spaced in such a way that allows us to support the community across all 3 phases of the recovery process. Overall, we expect to provide more than 3 months’ worth of on-the-ground services during the 12-month period. Travel and housing accommodations will be orchestrated so as to maximize the impact and value of donated funds, while not taxing the already stressed communities. RMF teams are often provided housing by community members during our mission; however, we are aware that this is not always a feasible option.
In addition to creating a 12-month psychological trauma support project for affected communities in Texas and Louisiana, RMF will work to establish a long-term psychological support program for these and other disaster-affected communities.
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