Getting help in Austin, Texas


Like individuals, whole communities suffer trauma in the aftermath of disasters of particularly gruesome crimes. The community may immediately experience a sort of paralysis, followed later by a wide range of debilitating emotions.

The caregivers in the community may themselves be immobilized with shock. For these reasons, victims, survivors, families and neighborhoods need trained Crisis Interveners to mobilize a mental health response to the distress within the community and to provide debriefing to rescue workers, including Fire, Police, EMS, Red Cross, and Mental Health personnel.

While survivors will indeed survive, the catastrophe will leave a residual stress in its victims; all are at risk of having old horrors triggered by new crises, and many are at risk of experiencing long-term reactions. Immediate, on the scene psychological consultations have a great potential to substantially reduce or eliminate long-term psychological and physical symptoms.

This approach has been endorsed by the disaster relief sections of the National Institute of Mental Health. Additionally, it has been recommended by the National Organization for Victim Assistance that every community disaster plan incoporate trianed Crisis Interveners who hlep conduct debriefings and other mental health services after large and small disasters.

In 1989, the Victim Services Division of the Austin Police Department developed a Mental Health Plan tha was implemented as part of the City Emergency Operations Plan for the Austin/Travis county area. In January of 1993 te plan was expanded to include the city and county wide respoonse through ALERT Austin/Travis County Linking of Emergency Response Teams.

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