Nebraska Strong Helped Flood Recovery




Nebraska Strong Helped Flood Recovery In the days and weeks after the historic March 2019 flooding that impacted much of Nebraska. University of Nebraska Public Policy Center disaster preparedness and response experts worked. Local agencies organize behavioral health outreach in affected counties and serve as liaisons between local and state government agencies.

As the flood waters retreated the damage was assessed. The Public Policy Center guided the Nebraska Strong Recovery Project with its expertise.

The emotional toll of the disaster, augmenting mental health professionals. With psychological first aid staff in communities across Nebraska. The Public Policy Center, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and four of the state’s six behavioral health regions collaborated.

The behavioral health regions hired and educated 60 outreach counselors. Nebraska Strong Helped Flood Recovery


Nebraska Strong Helped Flood Recovery


They also spoke with community residents and distributed educational materials about catastrophe stages and where to get help at community gatherings. They held public education events. Over 3,800 Nebraskans attended 239 events in the first year.

Denise Bulling, senior research director at PPC, said outreach counselors will help communities cope with the massive calamity. Counselors received training in identifying disaster phases and helping folks navigate them.

“These counselors are community members who work with survivors and organizations to help support individuals and communities as they experience the highs and lows of recovery,” Bulling stated in May 2019. “They engage with survivors, listen to their stories, assist with problem-solving, and provide resources.

Once people understand the phases of disaster and common reactions, they may put their feelings in perspective and know they’re not alone and that there are techniques to manage recovery stress. The middle of it is hard to see and recognize. These outreach workers assist people in understanding and coping with their situation.

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Public Policy researchers tracked program success.

The 2019-2020 flood response program affected about 123,000 Nebraskans, with 39,716 receiving direct services and 83,943 obtaining education materials. Services covered 28 counties and the Santee Sioux Nation before expanding during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was mostly used in Cass, Dodge, Douglas, Sarpy, and Washington counties.

As the experiment ended in spring 2020, the COVID-19 epidemic disrupted life in the US, prompting Nebraska and other shutdowns a year after flooding. New government funds of $6.7 million expanded the COVID-19 pandemic program to every county in the state. Stacey Hoffman, senior research manager at PPC, said the pandemic changed outreach counselors’ programming, but they found new ways to serve their communities.

Hoffman said outreach staff wrote messages and played games on windows using special markers in nursing homes and daycares to interact with residents. “We moved group counseling ‘coffee socials’ online. Program personnel sent ‘thank you’ and ‘thinking of you’ cards to first responders, notably healthcare workers.

They also placed hand-made and printed yard signs in Nebraska communities to demonstrate support. Program pamphlets were distributed to libraries, schools, food banks, and grocery stores for individual delivery and pickups.

The award helped Nebraskans through two big disasters in Dec. Nebraska Strong Helped Flood Recovery

26, 2021. Hoffman said the program during the flooding and COVID-19 made a difference in Nebraska and made Nebraskans aware of mental health resources. PPC and Nebraska HHS researchers are now quantifying the final numbers.

Hoffman reported that funding for a COVID-19 program made it easier. For staff to assist in flood-affected regions, as residents were already familiar with Nebraska Strong.

Hoffman said the six mental health areas continued catastrophe response and outreach in their communities after the program ended. The Nebraska Family Helpline (1-888-866-8660) and Rural Response Hotline (1-800-464-0258), offered by the Nebraska Strong Recovery Project, are still available for Nebraskans seeking assistance.


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