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School helps communities weather storms with free online training in disaster response

By Cynthia Wiford

Disaster response consultation and training, as well as two pocket guides developed by the School’s Behavioral Healthcare Resource Program, assisted the NC Division MHDDSAS, East Carolina Behavioral Health, and Dare County, N.C. in developing community responses for the eastern North Carolina counties recently devastated by Hurricane Irene.

BHRP staff worked with local community representatives, provider organizations, the LME and the Division to assist in formulating a safety net response for individuals in the eastern counties who were currently receiving mental health and addiction treatment services  as well as community members who were dealing with the result of the crisis in their lives.

About six years ago, BHRP obtained a contract through the North Carolina Public Health Preparedness and Response to develop a series of free online trainings in response to local disasters. The free online trainings include the following two courses developed by Kathleen Rounds, Ph.D.: “Disaster Preparedness for Public Health Social Workers, Part 1, Natural Disasters;” and “Part 2, Bio-terrorism;” and the following two courses developed by the BHRP staff: “Weathering the Storm, A DSS Disaster Response;” and “Intervening with Individuals in Crisis: A guide for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Professionals.”

Additionally, BHRP staff provided support to the Louisiana Office for Addictive Disorders through a loaned state consultant arrangement during Hurricane Katrina. Those two opportunities set the stage for BHRP’s expertise in assisting communities and state systems to prepare and deal with resulting natural disaster situations.

In response to Hurricane Katrina, BHRP developed a pocket guide for clinicians assisting in disaster struck areas and most recently developed a companion pocket guide for family disaster planning.