Special mental health crisis teams helping out in western Iowa

News

June 17th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

Special crisis counseling teams from the Iowa Department of Human Services are now working the flood zone areas of western Iowa. Mental Health specialist Karen Hyatt says their initial appearance created some mini crises of their own.  Hyatt says the teams are wearing red shirts that say: “Disaster Behavioral Health Response Team.” She says police and other officials were getting calls to ask if the team members were legitimate. Hyatt says they are in the area to help people deal with the stress of the situation.

She says the teams are going door-to-door and letting people in high-risk areas know the three levels of threat are so the people know when to evacuate, what to bring with them, where the buses will be, and other important information. Hyatt says the emotional toll of the flooding can be as trying as the physical aspect of moving items out of the way or building levees. And the response team works with people to help them deal with that emotional issues.

Wyatt ways they’re finding people who have been through numerous flood events before and are anxious about that. The crisis team can provide on site counseling to them if they need it, or refer them to community services. Wyatt says the physiological impact of flooding often doesn’t get enough attention.  “It’s one of the areas I think that goes unlooked at,” Wyatt says, “but what we’re hearing all up and down the western side of the state is that people are experiencing a lot of stress .” She says people are either in pre-flood staging, they’re getting ready for it and are asking “is it going to happen is it not, should I leave, shouldn’t I” and she says you add in concerns about the economy and there are all kinds of concern.

Crisis counseling teams have been active in Blencoe and Council Bluffs. They’ve also been invited to Hamburg, where many residents are expressing anxiety about the rising water.

(Dar Danielson/Radio Iowa)