ASHLAND – The theme of this year’s Stir-Up – Ashland Strong – honors the victims of the March flood and those who came to their aid.
With this theme in mind, it is appropriate that the Nebraska Strong Recovery Project is coming to the community this weekend to help those affected by the flooding.
“We reached out because we thought the theme was a good fit,” said Teresa Hemming, team leader for the Nebraska Strong Recovery Project.
The team will be at Midwest Physical Therapy, 1409 Silver St., on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday from 12 to 4 p.m.
The Nebraska Strong Recovery Project is an outreach program operated by Region V Systems. Region V provides behavioral health services in Saunders, Butler, Nemaha, Saline and Richardson counties.
Hemming said the aim of the project is to help survivors of the flood recover emotionally from the natural disaster. Often, flood victims and survivors ignore their emotions as they deal with the loss of their physical property and possessions.
Also, volunteer community recovery efforts usually focus on the physical aspects of the natural disaster by providing things like food, clothing or cleaning supplies.
These are tangible resources, while mental health needs are not, Hemming said.
“We are focused on the emotional aspect,” she added.
The Nebraska Strong Recovery Project team went door-to-door in the area after the flood to listen to stories, help problem-solve, to connect victims with resources and to provide education on the common reactions to disaster and the phases of disaster.
Hemming said the team has been to the areas in and around Ashland that were affected, but they may have missed some people. That is why they are coming to Stir-Up.
“It is in an effort to reach additional folks who were not home when we canvassed or flood victims we don’t know about,” she said.
One of the most important ways the team can help is by simply listening, and Hemming said there will be staff members in place to do so during Stir-Up.
“We often find it’s emotionally healing for someone to talk to someone who is really listening,” she said.
Even after Stir-Up is over, flood victims can find someone to talk with. Hemming said there are hotlines available 24 hours a day.
The Nebraska Strong Recovery Project team will also have access to other resources that may be useful to persons who have been affected by flooding, Hemming said. They network with a pool of resources to provide services not available locally.
“We do our best to try and share any unmet needs within the disaster community,” Hemming said.
The project team can also provide educational materials about how disasters affect victims emotionally. There are phases to disaster recovery, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that include pre-disaster, impact, heroic, honeymoon, disillusionment and reconstruction phases.
Understanding the phases of disaster and the common reactions to them can help survivors know what to expect as they move through the recovery process, Hemming said.
Addressing flood-related mental health needs can help ward off potential health concerns that victims may face. Long-term stress, a common emotional reaction to a natural disaster, can lead to physical ailments like headaches, stomach problems or susceptibility to colds and viruses, and preexisting conditions can worsen, according to materials provided by the Nebraska Strong Recovery Project.
The state applied for a crisis counseling grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for the project. Similar programs were provided after the Hallam tornado in 2004, Hemming said.
The Nebraska Strong Recovery Project is in the initial services program now, said Hemming. Although grant approval is pending, they expect to provide services through April 2020.
Only persons living in counties that have been declared for individual assistance program are eligible. Saunders and Cass counties were approved last April.
Residents of Cass County are served through the Region 6 Behavioral Healthcare in Omaha, so Hemming said they will be referred to the Omaha office.