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Portage County crisis teams joining forces to offer aid to first responders

Published: October 19, 2016 1:00 AM


Everyone who experiences a disaster is touched by it, including first responders.

To help those who are under stress after witnessing a traumatic event, the Incident Response Team of Portage County and the Critical Incident Stress Management teams are joining forces.

These two teams are now being coordinated by the Mental Health & Recovery Board, which is responsible for planning and preparing how to meet the mental health needs of the community.

Counselors and mental health professionals who are members of the Incident Response Team are sent out to provide mental health assistance at schools for crises including student deaths; for accidents or deaths at businesses; or for large scale crises with mass casualties and fatalities.

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The Critical Incident Stress Management program is for first responders that include fire, paramedics, police, dispatchers and hospital staff.

The team is lead by Bob Walker, inspector/safety trainer for Portage County, and Susan Forgacs, a nurse with the Portage County Health Department.

The teams can work with the community in planning how to respond to incidents, provide trainings and in-services, and provide on-site or phone incident response and support that includes local resources and referrals.

"Numerous studies have shown that persons who experience traumatic events, such as deaths or natural disasters, are emotionally impacted," said Joel Mowrey, PhD, executive director of the Mental Health & Recovery Board.

"While many individuals are able to cope using their natural support systems, others can become overwhelmed by the event and may experience a variety of problems including sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety and panic, and inappropriate use of alcohol or drugs."

The Incident Response Team is a part of the Portage County Emergency Management Agency.

The counseling team members are on staff at Children's Advantage, Coleman Professional Services, Family and Community Services, Townhall II, and the Mental Health & Recovery Board.

Businesses, schools, community groups and first responders can contact the team through the Townhall II Helpline at 330-678-4357, which operates 24 hours.

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