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Resources for Disaster Distress

Below is an email that went out from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to behavioral health providers. This is related to the drought and provides resources for providers and communities on important mental health resources. Please forward this information on to providers and communities in your state.

Dear Disaster Behavioral Health Partner,

We are writing to you today regarding the drought and extreme heat that is currently impacting so many communities across the United States.  We are especially concerned about those in rural communities experiencing economic stress due to the financial threat to their livelihoods. As communities across the nation find ways to cope with the impact of this extreme weather, I wanted to send you some information about the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Disaster Distress Helpline, as well as to share other SAMHSA resources that we thought might be helpful for the local response.

A disaster or tragedy is unexpected and often brings out strong emotions. The Disaster Distress Helpline is the first nationwide hotline dedicated to providing disaster crisis counseling. The toll free Disaster Distress Helpline 1-800-985-5990 can provide immediate crisis counseling to anyone who needs help in dealing with the effects of the extreme heat and subsequent droughts occurring across the country. This free, confidential and multilingual, crisis support service is available via telephone (800-985-5990) and SMS (Text ‘TalkWithUs’ to 66746) to residents who are experiencing emotional distress as a result of natural or human caused disasters. Callers are connected to trained and caring professionals from crisis counseling centers in the network.  The Helpline staff provides confidential crisis counseling, referrals and other needed support services. The Helpline is a 24 hour-a-day, seven day a week resource that responds to people who need crisis counseling after experiencing a natural or man-made disaster or tragedy. The Helpline complements HHS, FEMA and other disaster response capacity, and is available immediately anywhere within the United States.

Because we know that severe stress can lead some people to a state of hopelessness and despair, we wanted to include a reminder that the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available 24/7 with trained and caring counselors from across the nation to respond to callers at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

In addition, the SAMHSA Disaster Technical Assistance Center (SAMHSA DTAC) supports SAMHSA’s efforts to prepare States, Territories, and local entities to deliver an effective mental health and substance abuse (behavioral health) response to disasters. SAMHSA DTAC helps States and communities with  disaster behavioral health preparedness and response issues; provides guidance pertaining to disaster behavioral health funding mechanisms, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program (CCP); facilitates information exchange and knowledge brokering by connecting technical assistance requestors to their peers and experts in the field, and identifies useful print and electronic materials for States and communities through its SAMHSA DTAC Resource Collection.

We have attached two resource lists that include a wealth of information relating to the potential behavioral health needs of this disaster.  The first resource list contains drought and heat-specific information as well as a list of tip sheet describing the impact of economic stress.  The second resource list contains additional information specifically geared to the needs of rural communities. 

You can find additional information about disaster behavioral health preparedness, response, and recovery by visiting the SAMHSA DTAC website at SAMHSA DTAC provides various ways for disaster behavioral health personnel to obtain helpful information. For example, one mechanism is the SAMHSA Disaster Behavioral Health Information Series (DBHIS). The SAMHSA DBHIS contains themed resources and toolkits in disaster behavioral health. Each resource installment is organized according to topic. For example, the installments on Rural Populations as well as Resilience and Stress Management may be of specific interest to you at this time. 

Please feel free to contact us if there are any additional resources that you feel could be helpful in your response and recovery efforts during these difficult times.  You can contact SAMHSA DTAC directly by emailing or calling the toll-free hotline at 1-800-308-3515.

Rural Resource List
Drought & Economic Stress Resource List
Tips for Coping with Drought Related Stress
Recognize & Manage Stress of Farm Life
10 Tips for Families in Tough Times

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