Oswego County News Release
Oswego County Public Information Office, 46 East Bridge St., Oswego, NY 13126

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August 24, 2007

Oswego County Seeking Mental Health Disaster Responders

No matter how large or small, local communities are expected to provide an immediate disaster response to address and mitigate the potential psychological consequences following a disaster.

"The Oswego County Mental Hygiene Division is seeking volunteers, experienced in working in a Mental Health or Alcohol/Substance Abuse setting, to become mental health disaster responders," said Nicole Kolmsee, Director of Community Services for Oswego County Department of Social Services and Mental Hygiene. "A team is being developed which will include a group of local professionals and paraprofessionals to be able to respond to the psychological first aid needs of victims, volunteers, and/or first responders."

In the event of a large scale incident, the mental health response plan would be implemented by the County's Emergency Management Office (EMO). In the event of a smaller incident or routine emergency where the EMO is not involved, the mental health response would stand alone under the direction of the Director of Community Services to coordinate a response tailored to meet the identified needs of those requesting assistance.

"A locally managed response will best support the needs for Oswego County residents. Individuals having knowledge of our local system of services and resources will reduce the amount of time it takes for a connection to aftercare supports," said Kolmsee. "Responders will be in a position to directly contribute feedback and suggestions for local process improvement. Coordination among Mental Hygiene, Public Health, DSS, Emergency Management, and local service providers will allow for a comprehensive approach to addressing emergent needs."

Responders will not be providing clinical services; the response typically involves fieldwork. Sites that may require mental health support services may include:

  • shelters

  • first aid stations

  • respite centers for first responders

  • family reception centers

  • family assistance centers

  • phone banks/hotlines

  • emergency operation center

  • points of dispensing centers

  • volunteer staging areas

  • participation in an outreach team.

Core actions may include:

  • connecting and engagement

  • addressing safety and comfort needs

  • assessment of need for immediate crisis psychiatric services and/or follow-up care needs

  • information gathering of current needs and concerns

  • offering practical assistance

  • connecting with existing supports

  • providing information on coping

  • linking with collaborative services

Members of the Mental Health Response Team will be expected to complete a two-day training and participate in periodic (quarterly at most) organizational meetings. Local professionals, who have completed an instructional training program, will provide the training locally. The course curriculum, "Disaster Mental Health: A Critical Response", is the product of a collaboration between the University of Rochester, the NYS Office of Mental Health, and the NYS Dept of Health. The training program is intended to prepare mental health workers who may choose to participate in the response to a disaster (small or large scale) in Oswego County.

According to Kolmsee, "17 volunteers were locally trained in May of this year with great success. We are looking to recruit additional volunteers to increase the number of responders and add to the diversity of the team."

Training is scheduled for October 22nd & 23rd 2007. Individuals are being recruited who have a degree in human services or related field and have experience in crisis or supportive counseling. Applicants will be screened by the director and team leaders. Applicants meeting the criteria will be invited to participate in the training.

If you are interested in participating, please complete the application which can be printed from the County Website at www.oswegocounty.com/dss/mental.html. You may request applications to be mailed to you by calling 963-5361. Application deadline is September 21, 2007.

If you would like additional information before deciding, please contact the Director of Community Services, Nicole Kolmsee, at 963-5361 or by .

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