Resources Available for Those Impacted by Wildfires, Severe Storms in Tennessee

Monday, December 19, 2016 | 11:22am

Addressing Mental Health Needs Important After a Natural Disaster

NASHVILLE- The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) offers several resources  for those impacted by the recent wildfires and severe storms in Tennessee and has helped provide coordinated mental health services on site in Gatlinburg as the recovery phase of that disaster continues.

Additional resources may soon be available in Sevier County following the announcement that Sevier County has received Federal Disaster Declaration. TDMHSAS has already begun working on submitting an application to receive funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) through the Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program (CCP). The mission of the CCP is to assist individuals and communities in recovering from the challenging effects of natural and human-caused disasters through the provision of community-based outreach and psychoeducational services.

Services funded by the CCP may include:

  • Individual and Group Crisis Counseling
  • Community Networking and Support
  • Basic Supportive or Educational Contact
  • Assessment, Referral and Resource Linkage
  • Development and Distribution of Educational Materials

Citizens affected by these disasters could suffer any number of symptoms, such as feelings of social isolation, difficulty sleeping, fear and severe anxiety. It is also common for people to feel intense anger, a sense of hopelessness or even exhibit an increased use of mind-altering substances.

“Our Department works closely with our community partners in times like these to ensure that we have the available resources on the ground to meet the needs of the people in distraught areas,” Commissioner Marie Williams said. “Addressing mental health needs during a disaster situation is important in order to promote a sense of resiliency within the individuals impacted and to establish that these initial reactions you are experiencing are normal but they will not last forever.”

The department has a network of providers standing by 24/7 to help those affected connect with the appropriate mental health resources:

  • 24/7 State-wide Crisis line 855-Crisis-1 (855-274-7471)
  • SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline 1-800-985-5990 or Text TalkWith us 66746
  • TDMHSAS Consumer Affairs Help Line: 615-532-6700 (M-F 8-4:30)

TDMHSAS has two employees assigned as emergency services coordinators with Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) working closely with the American Red Cross and mental health centers to help ensure that appropriate mental health services are available in times of emergencies.

“Suicide rates are known to increase after natural disasters and personal tragedies,” Deputy Commissioner Sejal West said. “It is imperative that people take care of each other during times like these. We want to do whatever we can to make sure people know how to get help. Sometimes it takes a close family member or friend to recognize when there is a problem.”

The department urges citizens who have personally suffered from the recent natural disasters, or their loved ones, experiencing feelings of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder or suicidal thoughts, to immediately contact the 24/7 State-wide Crisis line (855-Crisis-1).

“Substance abuse concerns can also be heightened during times of natural disaster or immense tragedy because individuals often, as misguided as it may be, turn to substances to help relieve stress and pain in situations like this,” said Rodney Bragg, TDMHSAS Assistant Commissioner of Substance Abuse Services. “Please do not let this be you; substance use is not the answer! Seek professional help in order to cope with your recent tragedy.”

Citizens struggling with substance abuse may call the Tennessee REDLINE (1-800-889-9789) to seek help.

“Tennessee’s crisis services are among the best in the nation. We have trained mental health professionals on standby 24/7 to help when folks are feeling vulnerable mentally or emotionally. These calls are free and confidential. There are many ways to get help. It may just be a conversation with a counselor or an evening spent in respite, crisis workers are able access the situation and determine next best steps,” Williams said.

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Our Mission: Provide, plan for, and promote a comprehensive array of quality prevention, early intervention, treatment, habilitation, rehabilitation and recovery support services for Tennesseans with mental illness and substance abuse issues.  Our Vision: To be one of the nation's most innovative and proactive state behavioral health authorities for Tennesseans dealing with mental health and substance abuse problems. For more information, visit: http://tn.gov/behavioral-health/.

Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services |Tennessee Emergency Management Agency