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, with whom we worked 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.
Using our successful engagement model, RMF will provide psychological support to the victims/survivors of Hurricane Harvey to establish relationships with local community organizations. We will then work with them to ensure relevant, effective support:
- Understanding communities’ specific needs
- Identifying what resources they already have in place (so as not to duplicate services)
- Offering resources we have that meet their needs
- Executing 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, spaced to allow us to support the community across all three phases of the recovery process:
- Rescue and Honeymoon (tremendous resources and positive feelings)
- Recovery and Disillusionment (understanding the full impact of the disaster)
- Trigger Events, Anniversary Reactions, and Reconstruction (psychological reconstruction and long-term adjustment)
Overall, we expect to provide more than three months’ worth of on-the-ground services during the 12-month period.
RMF teams are often provided housing by community members during our mission; however, we are aware that this is not always a feasible option. Travel and housing accommodations will be orchestrated to maximize the impact and value of donated funds, while not taxing the already stressed communities.
In addition to creating a 12-month psychological trauma support project for affected communities in Texas, RMF will work to establish a long-term psychological support program for these and other disaster-affected communities.
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