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Thursday, 15 November 2007 15:55

Managing the Mental Health Role in Disasters: An Alaska Experience

Written by  Robert Hammaker, Ed.D., Robert Irvine, L.C.S.W., M.B.A., Ed.D., & Karl Brimner, M.Ed., L.M.F.T.

Presented at the 23rd Annual Conference of the National Association for Rural Mental Health Grand Forks, North Dakota, August 10, 1997 In June of 1996, a wild fire near Big Lake, AK destroyed over 300 homes. A national disaster was declared and national resources became available to supplement the overwhelmed local capacity. Mental health disaster counseling services had a critical role in the response to the disaster. In addition to the obvious risks of the existing service system being overwhelmed by the fire, there also was a need to manage the assistance that arrived in a storm of their own. The Alaska experience was positive. Suggestions are made to make the best use of outside assistance and to avoid more help than was helpful. Purpose The purpose of this paper is to describe the initial experience of the mental health system in Alaska to a wild fire in Big Lake, Alaska. The roles