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Center for Engagement and Community Development

News Features 

Griffin coordinates behavioral health program to help Kansas communities in disasters

K-State Engagement E-News, Special Edition, May 2008 (PDF)

5 ways Griffin's team helps communities after disasters: 1. We work to be a caring, supportive presence. 2. We listen. 3. We encourage residents to talk about what they're experiencing and share stories. 4. We help people sort out life decisions and set a plan of action. 5. We set people up with the resources they need to make their plans a reality.

When disaster strikes, a community is not only physically altered, but also mentally. Citizens may have a difficult time analyzing the shocking and instantaneous changes their communities face. But Charlie Griffin and a team of state-wide volunteers are working to counter these problems with positive change.

"We provide behavioral health support after a disaster," said Charlie Griffin, coordinator for the All-Hazards Behavioral Health Program. "We were on the ground May 6, 2007, two days after the disaster, and we've been there ever since."

Immediately after the tornado, Griffin helped coordinate a team of volunteers who entered the community to help. Between May 7, 2007, and mid-July, more than 490 volunteers gave their time to help Greensburg residents heal. At times, this process can be difficult.

"We step in to help communities when they don't have the resources to do so themselves," Griffin said. "We have a heavy responsibility to take our resources out in the state in an applied way."

This dedication to make the state a better place aligns well with the CECD mission. Both organizations work to combine the resources of K-State with community needs in a mutually beneficial way.

"CECD works to help communities meet their needs, and sometimes those needs are remarkably devastating," Griffin said. "We work to be a caring, supporting presence in communities just like so much of CECD's work is."

Griffin's team uses the psychological first aid model in their interaction with community residents after a disaster. This model asks, "What can we do to reach out to those around us in a time of need?" Working hand in hand with local agencies, Griffin's team provides community members with the emotional support they need.

The All-Hazards Behavioral Health Program works to help communities with presidentially declared disasters. Teams of full-time employees will stay in the communities to help for one year after the disaster strikes. Currently, the program is also stationed in the nine counties of South East Kansas that were devastated by floods last July. This service provides an integral function for Kansas communities — listening to residents in a time of need and helping them move forward.