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Disaster Preparedness

Disaster Preparedness

In collaboration with the City of Austin and other agencies, Integral Care leads city-wide coordination efforts for behavioral health services and supports in Travis County following catastrophic events such as aviation disasters, pandemic flu, terrorist attacks, and most commonly, hurricane evacuations. Recent examples include disaster response efforts for Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike managed in close collaboration with the Austin Travis County Health and Human Services Department, Travis County, City of Austin Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Austin Police Department-Victim Services, Red Cross and numerous faith-based agencies.

Integral Care also provides guidance, technical assistance and other coordinating efforts with the City of Austin and the Central Texas region before, during and after disasters. Integral Care's disaster preparedness and response program aims to:

  • Ensure consumer, staff and community safety;
  • Decrease adverse mental health effects following a disaster;
  • Prevent long-term trauma; and
  • Foster short and long-term adaptive functioning

The City of Austin Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management offers detailed guidance on preparing yourself and your family to be safe in the event of disaster as well as up to the minute information on local events. For more information, click here.

Disaster Behavioral Health Response Team

Integral Care's Disaster Behavioral Health Response Team is comprised of mental health professionals with clinical, management and planning expertise in the following areas of specialization: severe mental illness; developmental disabilities; children’s mental health; chemical dependency; and services to populations with special needs, including individuals who are homeless.  The team’s background, training and credentials reflect a large spectrum of disciplines across the field of mental health including social work, psychology, psychiatry and other human service specialties.

In addition, Integral Care coordinates a Disaster Behavioral Health Volunteer Network of behavioral health professionals affiliated with area non-profits, including The University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work,  The University of Texas at Austin Counseling Center, Capitol Area Psychological Association, National Association of Social Workers - Texas Chapter, as well as private licensed mental health professionals.

Emotional Responses to Disaster

Virtually no one who sees a disaster is untouched by it and everyone experiences stress. Feelings of distress are very common and are considered normal reactions to an abnormal event. Learning to recognize the normal reactions and emotions that occur following catastrophic events can help to better cope with them. Symptoms can include:

  • Feelings of sadness, depression, frustration and anxiety;
  • Nightmares, flashbacks, isolation;
  • Substance Use; and
  • Reactions in thoughts, feelings and actions, often upsetting to the individual, loved ones and co-workers  

Although most people who experience a disaster will recover on their own, some may need professional help especially in instances where domestic violence, self-harming behavior and feelings of suicide emerge. If you or someone you are concerned about has expressed thoughts of suicide, please call the 24/7 Psychiatric Crisis Hotline at 512-472-HELP (4357).

The Texas Department of State Health Services offers free educational brochures on healthy coping, helping friends and loved ones following a disaster, and other resources. Click here for more information.

Disaster Mental Health Training

Integral Care provides periodic disaster mental health training in psychological first aid, trauma treatment and Incident Command Structure for its Disaster Behavioral Health Volunteer Network and other professionals in the community. If you are interested in getting involved or would like additional information, please contact disaster@atcic.org.

The following links are national resources from the National Center on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) which offer online courses, webcasts and educational materials:

Joint Comission