The American Red Cross is making a plea for mental health professionals to deploy to Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
As the flood waters rise in Texas, the Red Cross chapter in Massachusetts is getting overloaded with calls and questions from residents who want to volunteer. They are now trying to harness that energy and interest in hopes of putting more people on the ground to assist with the Harvey response.
The Red Cross says more than 200 people locally have expressed interest in deploying and many have no background in disaster response. At the Cambridge office, they are in the process of setting up basic training sessions this week for those who may be needed in the near future.
“There’s a lot of different skill sets we need,” Flynn Jebb, volunteer coordinator for Red Cross Massachusetts said. “If you want to move stuff, if you want to organize stuff or even if you just want to talk to people and help others, there’s really space for everyone.”
Those interested can sign up online through the Red Cross website. Volunteers will be vetted and asked to complete a training session, which will likely take place after work hours this week at various Red Cross locations including Cambridge, Worcester and Springfield. Once they are trained, they could join or relieve some of the 30 Red Cross volunteers from Massachusetts who are in Texas already.
The immediate task is shelter support, but from there the needs will get more complex. Red Cross Massachusetts is already setting up more extensive trainings in the future for volunteers who may deploy later. The Red Cross expects to have a presence in Texas for months, if not years, and Jebb expects hundreds of local volunteers will help during that time.
“People can come and go soup to nuts, zero to hero, and get trained in a lot of different types of more specialty skills for disaster response,” Jebb said.
The Red Cross is also calling for licensed mental health professionals to help with the Hurricane Harvey response. A group of psychology students and faculty from William James College in Newton had a hand in helping victims recover from trauma in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
“They did assessments, they helped focus therapeutic interventions for the families that were there in Baton Rouge,” Dr. Robert Kinscherff, Vice President of Community Engagement at William James College said.
Kinscherff said victims of the disaster can suffer from anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. He says the sooner professionals can get in there to treat them, the more likely they will be able to move on from the disaster once the flood waters recede.
“It gives them a greater sense that they have some control of their lives. They have some important choices to make as they build some support systems and move on less distressed,” Kinscherff said.
To help with the Hurricane Harvey response, visit the American Red Cross website.