CHARLESTON, W. Va. -- Residents of Fayette, Lincoln, Logan and Mingo Counties who suffered losses from the severe storms that began in late July will be able to get free crisis counseling to help ease their emotional stress, disaster officials announced today.
The outreach effort will provide screening, education and counseling at the request of individuals suffering from disaster-related pressure, worry or strain. It is not necessary to be registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to obtain counseling.
Individuals may request counseling by calling 1-800-232-0020, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week until further notice. Counselors will also visit community centers, senior citizen centers, schools and neighborhoods in the affected counties. Groups can request a visit by calling the toll free number above and asking for "Project Recovery."
"Disaster stress is common when people are frightened, thrust into strange new situations and forced to cope with major losses," said Steve Kappa, state coordinating officer for disaster recovery. Kappa emphasized that individuals who seek help will receive grief and stress counseling related to this disaster, not professional therapy.
Kappa said anxiety in children and the elderly is a special concern in the aftermath of a major disruptive event such as back-to-back storms and large-scale flooding.
"We try to keep individuals and families from being overwhelmed by the impact of a disaster by focusing on steps to help them regain control," said Kappa. "No one who experiences a disaster goes untouched by it."
The program is run by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, with all costs reimbursed by FEMA. If necessary, the state may request a longer term counseling program. Community outreach, consultation and education are also part of this program.
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.