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Mental health collaborative tackles fire

Time:2018-03-14 15:23wine - Red wine life health Click:

Health Family local County Fire

• Bringing in national experts to train local psychologists, social workers and therapists who want to be part of the collaborative. Each will get 12 hours of training in psycho-educational support for post-disaster recovery and resilience;

• Sending teams of therapists to neighborhood meetings, town halls, school events or employer sponsored luncheons, along with outreach through social media; and

• Drop-in therapy sessions made available through the participation of Redwood Empire Chapter of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, with the initiative paying counselors to run group sessions.

The project’s first year budget is now more than $800,000. Mason’s foundation has contributed $150,000 and another $50,000 grant has been donated by Dreaming Tree Wines. Also, Global Sports Development, though the foundation, has contributed $40,000, she said.

Wide range of partners

Partners in the initiative include county mental health staff, the Redwood Empire Chapter of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, Redwood Psychological Association, Alliance Medical Center, St. Joseph Health and the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The project also calls for money to be invested in Sonoma County’s National Alliance on Mental Illness to help it expand hours and counseling teams and take calls from people who want individual counseling. NAMI will then refer people to special trauma-trained participating counselors.

Mason said the effort will be widely publicized through an advertising campaign coordinated with Sonoma County public health staff. The ad campaign will help people identify trauma symptoms and where they can get help.

Laura Strom, a local marriage and family therapist and past president of both the state and local chapter of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, said the initiative builds on work local therapists have been continually doing since the fires.

This works includes holding support circles for those affected by fires held at Catholic Charities on Airway Drive in Santa Rosa every Saturday from 3 to 4:30 p.m. RECAMFT has also put together a list of about 100 therapists willing to do up to five free therapy sessions for anyone affected by the fire, she said.

Strom said her association just got funding to offer free “trauma-informed” yoga and iRest mediation class for fire survivors, beginning April 3 and 7 at YogaOne, 416 B St, Ste. D, Santa Rosa.

“The impact of the fire on everyone in this community cannot be underestimated,” Strom said. “It’s not just those who lost their homes.”

A novel aspect of the initiative involves medical research headed by the National Center for PTSD, part of the VA Palo Alto Health Care System. Adrienne Heinz, a clinical research psychologist who directs the center, said the initiative will likely publish some of its findings and make it free to the public.

Heinz pointed out that long-term mental health initiatives that address natural disasters are uncommon and in many ways the local effort will be result in pioneering research. She said that for the most part, post-disaster crisis counseling is limited to one or two sessions in a shelter.

The amount of time it takes to recover from fire-related stress and trauma can vary, said Liguori Stratton, the Santa Rosa psychologist. She said mild to moderate stress reactions are normal, and don’t usually become chronic.

“Acute symptoms can be more enduring, especially without treatment, so treatment is extremely important,” she said.

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