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Counseling team visits flood survivors through program

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

SIKESTON -- Although a new year has begun, flood survivors continue to cope with grief and losses they suffered last year.

"The water is gone, but the recovery takes time," said Phyllis Rowe, team leader for Show-Me Recovery -- a crisis counseling program funded by a grant through the Federal Emergency management System and the Department of Mental Health.

Sponsored by Bootheel Counseling Services in Sikeston, Show-Me Recovery is a team of outreach workers who assist people who have been affected by the recent flooding in New Madrid, Mississippi and Scott Counties.

The team's initial visit into flooded communities occurred weeks after the flooding and focused on offering support to individuals.

"We wanted to meet with them and link them to resources," Rowe said. "We've assisted residents in Morehouse, Charleston, Benton, Wyatt -- pretty much anywhere that was flooded."

The counselors said over the last few months, they've talked to families, farmers, land owners, business owners -- all who suffered losses following the flooding.

"Many don't think they should be feeling the way they do, and they don't realize they are not alone," Rowe said.

Local children have been impacted tremendously, the counselors said.

"Some of the children lost so much. They had to get up in the middle of the night and they lost their toys and clothes in addition to their homes. Some had to change schools," Rowe said.

The crisis counselors make contact in homes and communities not in clinical or office settings. Their services are delivered to the communities and promote resilience, empowerment and recovery.

Dubbing themselves as the "Blue Shirt Team," team members are recognized in the community by their blue polo shirts with "BCS" embroidered on the sleeves.

"We're taking a nontraditional approach, going door-to-door to provide information for needed resources, to educate, listen and give them an opportunity to vent and share their feelings," Rowe said.

If residents aren't home, the counselors will hang packets of information on front door knobs for survivors should they need it, Rowe said.

The counselors noted for many of the survivors, who may have spent the last few months in the "adrenaline phase," reality is starting to settle in along with depression and anxiety.

Team members spend anywhere from five to 10 minutes or 15 minutes to an hour with someone, Rowe said.

"We encourage the survivors to find a new normal in their lives because many of them have suffered such a great loss -- not to say life will never get like it was -- but to accept where they are now," Rowe said.

The counselors offer assistance through community outreach and educational services. They help disaster survivors by understanding their current situation and reactions; evaluate their stress levels and management methods; promote the use or development of coping strategies; and encourage connections with other individuals and agencies who may help them in their recovery process.

"It's truly for disaster recovery and flood survivors," said Jennifer Hartlein, director of fund development and public relations at Bootheel Counseling Services in Sikeston.

Individuals who receive assistance from or request contact from the Show-Me Recovery team do not have to be clients of Bootheel Counseling Services, Hartlein said. In addition, individuals' identities can anonymous, and no files or records are kept.

For more information about Show-Me Recovery, call (573) 471-0800 and for emergency mental health issues, contact the 24-hour Mental Health Crisis and Referral line at 1-800-356-5395.

For the entire story, see the Jan. 4 Standard Democrat or click here to log on to the electronic edition.