A year after flooding devastated areas of western Washington, a WSU researcher is helping analyze and evaluate ongoing crisis counseling in six counties most affected.
 
Many thousands of people have been served by four outreach teams using a variety of strategies, said Robert Short, director of the Washington Institute for Mental Health Research and Training (WIMHRT) at WSU Spokane. Among the most widespread efforts: More than 13,000 people attended brief educational contacts with the teams; 54,000 pieces of information were distributed to the public; and more than 10,000 people attended 600 group outreach sessions.
 
Earlier this year, WIMHRT faculty and staff were awarded a contract to provide data management, data and statistical analysis and program evaluation for crisis counseling efforts. Crisis counseling itself is not “therapy,” but short-term help for disaster survivors to identify long-term resources to aid in their recovery.
 
WIMHRT is a collaboration that includes the state Department of Social and Health Services, Mental Health Division (MHD), and its employees are participating on the contract. The teams were comprised of local outreach workers hired and organized by community mental health agencies.
 
Reporting client and provider satisfaction with the outreach effort is one part of the evaluation, said Sandra Gregoire, Disaster Outreach Services project manager. The group conducts ongoing evaluation of the outreach process and makes corrections as needed.
Field work will end this month, Short said, and the contract ends in February.
Among WIMHRT’s findings:
 
• More than 13,000 individuals attended brief educational contacts with the teams, almost 10,000 were contacted by phone, and more than 4,000 e-mails were sent.
 
• Just over 54,000 pieces of information were distributed to the public either by physically handing them out or leaving them in public places.
 
• Nearly 4,800 people attended 8,000 individual crisis outreach sessions (some were seen several times). About 600 group sessions were attended by more than 10,000 people.
 
• Services were offered to all ages and in many locations. The most common place for contacting people was in homes and the workplace. The most common reasons for contact included personal home damage, financial loss and the witnessing of community destruction.