Bureau for Behavioral Health
Bureau for Behavioral Health

Disaster Behavioral Health

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A disaster can be large or small and can occur with or without warning. It can be naturally caused or man-made. No one who lives through a disaster is untouched by the experience. The emotional effects from potential losses associated with disasters can cause unusual stress as people begin to rebuild their lives. Just as it can take months to rebuild damaged buildings, it takes time to grieve loss and rebuild lives.

The Bureau for Behavioral Health houses the Disaster Behavioral Health program. For more information, please contact the BBH Disaster Coordinator, Michael Ellis, at Michael.A.Ellis@wv.gov​.   As a reminder, all emergencies start and end locally. This means that the Bureau for Behavioral Health will work to support the efforts of local jurisdictions. We stand ready to assist in the coordination of resources and navigate the uncertain times following a disaster.

Caring for Your Mental Health After a Disaster

Distress is often a normal reaction to an abnormal or unusual situation. Not everyone will have an emotional reaction to an event, and those who do will react in their own unique way.

Some common emotional reactions include:​
  • ​​​​​recurring dreams or nightmares​
  • digestive problems
  • anxiety
  • guilt
  • anger
  • isolation
  • headaches
  • fatigue
  • distrust in others
  • muscle tension
Children are especially vulnerable, both during and after a disaster. 
  • Younger children may become clingy with parents or caregivers, scared to sleep alone, or show aggressive behavior at home or school. 
  • Older youth may have delinquent behaviors, defiance, social withdrawal or decline in school performances. 
Children and adults need to express themselves. It is important to encourage all survivors to talk about their experience.

Supportive Strategies for Individuals Affected by Disaster:
  • ​Provide time for closeness​
  • Monitor media exposure to disaster trauma
  • Maintain routines as much as possible.
  • Spend time with family and friends
  • Involve children in preparation of family emergency kits and home drills
  • Encourage exercise and physical activities
  • Set gentle but firm limits for acting out behaviors​

​Resources During and After a Disaster​

  • Disaster Distress Helpline: Call or text 1-800-985-5990. 
    The Disaster Distress Helpline is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories. Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster. 
  • 988 Lifeline: Call or text 988, and chat is available at WV988.org. 
    988 is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year service.  Formerly the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the 988 Lifeline is uniquely positioned to provide support to individuals experiencing all levels of emotional distress. 988 is a national initiative to provide an easy to remember number for connections to support. The advantage of 988 is that it is answered locally (currently based on area code) to provide linkage to the most appropriate, local resources. 

State Resources​

HELP4WV offers a 24/7 call, chat, and text line that provides immediate help for any West Virginian struggling with an addiction or mental health issue. Many of those answering our accredited  helpline are peer-support specialists or recovery coaches. This means that they have personal experience in recovery from a mental health or substance abuse issue. This initiative, funded by the Department of Human Services, is designed to streamline the process of seeking help for behavioral health issues. The helpline staff offers confidential support and resource referrals, including self-help groups, out- patient counseling, medication-assisted treatment, psychiatric care, emergency care, and residential treatment. The helpline provides assistance for those who need help themselves, and guidance for those seeking help for loved ones. It is also an ideal way for social workers, nurses, and others involved in discharge or care planning to access a comprehensive list of state resources.

The Children’s Crisis & Referral line is a subnetwork of 844Help4WV. That means you can dial the same number and then be connected to someone who will be able to help with resources specifically for youth. When it comes to children, it may be easy to see that something is wrong, yet scary and challenging to know where to find help. The Children’s Crisis & Referral Line is available 24/7 to assist in finding the most appropriate available treatment for youth behavioral health needs. CCRL can provide parenting support, crisis counseling, and local resources for your family. The goal is to offer support that facilitates children staying in their homes, schools, and communities. 

CCRL can provide information on a wide array of services and resources for children relating to: 

  • Mental health disorders
  • Behavior concerns
  • Substance use
  • Intellectual and developmental delays
  • Emotional wellbeing​
The Center for Threat Preparedness facilitates advance planning and preparation for health-related disasters. The CTP office is in Charleston and is responsible for public health preparedness for the entire state. Through partnerships and collaboration, CTP supports public health and medical systems to prepare for, respond to, recover from, and mitigate emergencies and threats to our health.

​When existing entities surge past their normal capacity, CTP coordinates additional services to help meet the demand. Once health and medical issues are no longer stretched beyond their maximum, CTP steps aside. In the meantime, CTP is constantly preparing for anything that potentially affects the public on a large scale. In the event of a disaster, CTP would be a driving force in coordinating the public health response and recovery for affected citizens in West Virginia.

The mission of the West Virginia Emergency Management Division is to ensure the protection of life and property by providing coordination, guidance, support and assistance to local emergency managers and first responders. 

Pursuant to West Virginia State Code and the West Virginia Emergency Operations Plan, the agency manages disaster preparedness, mitigation, and response and recovery efforts throughout the state by coordinating with all responsible government agencies. In the event of a federally declared disaster, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) works closely with the division to administer assistance programs. 

WV VOAD is a humanitarian association of independent organizations that may be active in all phases of disaster. Its mission is to identify unmet needs and facilitate efficient streamlined service delivery to those imperiled or impacted by disaster while eliminating duplication of effort through cooperation, coordination, communication, and collaboration in the four phases of disaster: Preparation, Response, Recovery, and Mitigation. WV VOAD collaborates with local, regional, and national partners to coordinate disaster relief, response, and recovery efforts in times of disaster. 

Types of Services available through WV VOAD & Member Organizations:​
  • Management of Unsolicited Donations
  • Management of Spontaneous Volunteers
  • Debris Removal
  • Mass Care (Sheltering and Feeding)
  • Mucking and Gutting 
  • Emotional and Spiritual Care​
  • Long Term Recovery Support
  • Disaster Case Management
  • Construction (Rebuilding)​​​​​

Federal Resources 

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) DTAC prepares states, territories, tribes, and local entities to deliver an effective mental health and substance use-related response to disasters. 
SAMHSA DTAC assists states, territories, tribes, and local entities with all-hazards disaster behavioral health response planning that allows them to prepare for and respond to both natural and human-caused disasters. SAMHSA DTAC also supports collaboration among mental health and substance use authorities, federal agencies, and nongovernmental organizations and facilitates the sharing of information and best practices with the disaster behavioral health field.  SAMHSA DTAC supports the SAMHSA Center for Mental Health Services in the provision of disaster behavioral health technical assistance grants, which are available to eligible states, territories, and federally recognized tribes, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program.

The CCP is a short-term disaster relief grant for states, U.S. territories, and federally recognized tribes. CCP grants can be awarded after a Presidentially declared emergency with CCP designated or the President has issued a major disaster declaration with Individual Assistance (IA) designated. CCP funding supports community-based outreach, counseling, and other mental health services to survivors of natural and human-caused disasters.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds and implements the CCP as a supplemental assistance program to support mental health assistance and training activities in presidentially declared major disaster areas.  Through an interagency agreement, the Disaster Behavioral Health Branch of the SAMHSA Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) works with FEMA to provide technical assistance, consultation, and training for state and local mental health personnel. CMHS is also responsible for CCP grant administration and program oversight.
 “Just in Time"​ web-based training provides a quick overview of the CCP and the skills needed to provide behavioral health services after a disaster. This web-based training is designed to provide crisis counselors, supervisors, and team leaders with a basic understanding of the Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program (CCP) model and its services. This training is used when in-person Core Content Training is not yet available and staff must prepare to provide CCP services as fast as possible. Staff who complete the "Just in Time" web-based training are still required to complete the full Core Content Training once it is available. 

Ready.gov is a National public service campaign designed to educate and empower the American people to prepare for, respond to and mitigate emergencies and disasters. The goal of the campaign is to promote preparedness through public involvement.​​
The 4 key pieces of the Ready campaign are:​
  • Stay informed about the different types of emergencies that could occur and their appropriate responses.
  • Make a family emergency plan.
  • Build an emergency supply kit.
  • Get involved in your community by taking action to prepare for emergencies​.​

Pandemic Resources​

Human Services Bureau for Behavioral Health
Room 350 | 350 Capitol Street | Charleston, WV 25301
Phone: (304) 558-0627 | Fax: (304) 558-1008
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