Professors to assist tornado relief efforts

Professors to assist tornado relief efforts Two University of South Dakota faculty members departed May 18 to assist in the national relief effort in Oklahoma after one of the worst tornado disasters in U.S. history struck the area May 3.

Professor Gerard Jacobs, director of the Disaster Mental Health Institute (DMHI), and Dr. Gil Reyes, DMHI's newest faculty member, will spend two weeks in Oklahoma City as Red Cross volunteers, providing disaster mental health services wherever assigned.

"We will both be doing disaster mental health, but we won't know specifically which area until we get there," Jacobs said. "I anticipate that Dr. Reyes will be working as a front line service provider and I will be in a supervisory capacity, overseeing some portion of the operation."

Disaster mental health professionals provide mental health assistance to victims, their families, emergency workers and others in the aftermath of a major disaster, such as the recent Columbine High School shootings in Colorado and tornado disasters in Oklahoma and Iowa.

A nationally recognized expert in the disaster mental health field, Jacobs is one of only two national consultants for Disaster Mental Health for the American Red Cross, a volunteer position. The other is Dr. Ruth Barron at Harvard University, who is currently in Albania. Barron and Jacobs have worked together on many other projects and are involved in the development of national policies and procedures for disaster

mental health for the Red Cross.

Jacobs, a national consultant since 1993, cites his first major experience in disaster mental health as the 1989 crash of United Airlines Flight 232 in Sioux City. Following that event, Jacobs and USD Professor and Psychology Department Chair Randal Quevillon proposed the development of a national plan for disaster mental

health.

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