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Misery in the Midwest—the situation facing behavioral healthcare providers (updated 6-24-08)

June 19, 2008
by root
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The Midwest has had a rough spring, with deadly weather throughout the region.

Behavioral Healthcare will bring you updates on how mental healthcare and substance use treatment providers and related organizations have been affected—and how you can help them in their recovery efforts.




Flooding affects services at a CMHC in Iowa (updated 6-24-08)

From Cindy Kaestner, LISW, Executive Director,

Abbe Center for Community Mental Health

, Cedar Rapids, Iowa


"Our agency - Abbe Center for Community Mental Health serves a 3 county area, all three counties experienced severe flooding and are declared Presidential disaster counties. "On Wednesday June 11th we were told by county officials that our agency would need to move equipment off the floor and our building was going to be sandbagged as we were in the 500 year floodplane. While no one believed the waters would reach our office, which is over a mile away from the Cedar River, our corporate office is in the first block next to the river so we knew they would get water. They had been moving their equipment and furniture from 1st floor to second floor and sandbagged their building.. We moved our computer equipment and client files, etc off the floor however after we closed early so staff could get home to prepare their own homes, we were notified our building was being 'closed' the next day. "Our management team met the next morning at our case management office, which is on higher ground and safe from the flood waters. We were given permission to go into the MHC building the next day to get medications out to be delivered to clients. Many of our clients were being evacuated to shelters and many of them depend on us for daily and weekly medication management. We were also able to remove the servers for our computer system. Our management team were making plans for the MHC services from other locations if we would not be able to return to our building as well as locating our clients who were displaced. At this point we could only wait to see if our building would be flooded. On Saturday, after the river crested, the water literally made it to our parking lot but not to the building and we were very excited to know we would be back in our offices. The river divides Cedar Rapids and all the bridges that connect the east to the west side were closed except one. It sometimes took 2 hours just to get to the shelter or get medications from the pharmacy to deliver to a client. "On Thursday, June 12 we were contacted by the local Emergency Operations Center to provide 24 hour mental health staff at 2 emergency shelters. Our staff was nothing short of amazing in their response to this disaster. From Thursday through Tuesday the 17, we staffed both shelters around the clock. We were allowed back in our building on Sunday so we could get offices in order. The power was out but we planned to be open on Monday. We rent office space in a county owned building and they did get us generator power by Monday morning however we had no telephone system or email. We were in business for anyone who showed up while we continued to staff the shelters. We were able to get our servers back up so we could work fine in our data system, but doing all our business by cell phone was interesting. We were able to transfer our phone line to our case management office, but with no fax or email we had to have messages driven down to us. Of course with all the cell phone traffic in the city, signals and calls were dropping frequently. At one point there were at least 6-7 of our staff standing in the parking lot on their cell phones trying to call pharmacies, return messages, etc. This was an interesting way to do business. "On Tuesday night the National Red Cross took responsibility for the mental health staffing of the shelters so we were able discontinue our staff time there. The local EOC asked if we would provide mental health staff at the neighborhood meetings and Resource Centers. We were able to provide staff at the 4 centers and attend numerous neighborhood meetings from Tuesday through Saturday. During this 10 day period 43 staff members have provided over 465 hours of staff time in the emergency shelters and resource center locations, while we have continued our regular MHC service hours and programs. This has truely been a heroic effort from all of our staff, some of who lost their own homes and possessions in the flood. "We are in the process of applying for a FEMA grant for Crisis Counseling and will plan to continue our efforts and outreach over the next year. We know that we would not have been able to respond to this crisis to this magnitude had we been displaced long term from our building. While we get our business operations back to normal, our clinical services and our community will be anything but normal for some time tot come. Several CMHCs in Iowa are having similar experiences this year as the weather has given us tornados and floods like we have never experienced before. Many of our staff worked here during the 'Floods of 1993' and there is no comparison to the destruction and devastation we are seeing now. We have had many MHCs reach out to us with offers of assistance and we are so appreciative of that."

Donations can be sent to the Abbe Center for Community Mental Health, 520 11th St NW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52405.



Parkersburg, Iowa, tornado (updated 6-19-08)



AgriWellness, Inc., told us about a tornado that ravaged Parkersburg, Iowa, on May 25, which has kept the

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