Disaster Mental Health Institute will assist stricken New Yorkers

Disaster Mental Health Institute will assist stricken New Yorkers by David Lias Dr. Jerry Jacobs, director of The University of South Dakota Disaster Mental Health Institute, responds when people are in need.

He has helped people cope with the devastation of Hurricane Andrew and the enormous loss of life following airline crashes.

Chances are he may have to draw upon every bit of his education and experience a week from now when he leads a team from the USD institute to New York City.

"The national headquarters of the Red Cross has called us and asked us to go in as a second shift," Jacobs said late Tuesday afternoon, approximately eight hours after a terrorist attack caused the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City to collapse. "That means we will replace the folks who are there currently."

Jacobs estimates that a team of from three to six professionals from the institute will journey to the East Coast.

"We offer the people that are available to the national headquarters, and they build the team there," he said. "It's completely their discretion as to who goes."

The institute team will provide services in a number of areas.

"Generally, I'm going to be in an administrative role trying to make sure that the services get provided," Jacobs said.

Dr. Randal P. Quevillon, a specialist in rural community interventions, also likely will serve an administrative capacity in New York. Quevillon assisted the American Red Cross in supervising mental health services for the survivors and the families of the victims of three major airline crashes.

He also worked on a national hotline to assist children affected by the bombing of the Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City, and was part of the team that responded to the devastation of Spencer by a tornado.

Jacobs said counselors will focus on several different areas, including assisting survivors as well as the loved ones of those who died.

"And there is one segment that tends to the needs of rescue and recovery teams, making sure that they are taken care of," he said.

A third segment is responsible for taking care of family members of those who are directly affected who are not in the New York metropolitan area.

"We use our nation-wide network of around 4,000 Red Cross volunteers to work with family members who are in remote locations," Jacobs said. "And there is another person is responsible for the care of the disaster relief workers themselves, because this can be a very grueling process."

The gruesome nature of this week's happenings, and the fact that they are the result of a deliberate attack rather than an act of nature, will strongly influence the types of assistance that will be demanded from the institute's professionals.

"The intentionality of terrorism is definitely a factor in the psychological response," Jacobs said. "The idea that someone would deliberately do it as opposed to it being an act of nature is really a very different quality of experience for the people who are involved in the incident. So that definitely makes things more difficult."

That likely will mean the team from USD won't stay in New York quite as long as they usually do at other disaster sites.

Jacobs said normally the response by the institute to a disaster operation for mental health last two weeks. "But in mass casualty incidents, it's often shortened to 10 or 11 days because of the intensity of the experience."

State responds to Tuesday's terrorism

Here is a summary of decisions and actions in South Dakota following Tuesday's terrorist attacks on the East Coast.


* Shortly after the first news reports Tuesday morning, Gov. Bill Janklow met by conference call with top officials from the Highway Patrol, the South Dakota National Guard, Office of Attorney General, Division of Criminal Investigation, Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Pierre, Minnehaha County, Pennington County and Hughes County. Security was heightened at various locations as a precautionary measure, but specific details are not being publicly released.


* Janklow directed that state government buildings remain open and that state offices continue normal services. No highways have been closed. The Highway Patrol was placed on alert in case additional services became necessary.


* The World War II Memorial parade and dedication set for Saturday, Sept. 15, remains on schedule.


* The National Park Service closed Mount Rushmore. Janklow said the decision came because of Mount Rushmore's symbolic value.


* Janklow met at 3 p.m. Tuesday at the state Capitol with mayors, police chiefs and county sheriffs for Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Pierre, Aberdeen and Watertown. They will plan to use emergency and law enforcement resources of those communities on a regional basis if needed.


* The governor issued the following statement on the steps being taken in South Dakota in response to the attacks Tuesday:

"This may be the end of it, but it also may be the beginning. We don't know. We need to be prepared to move in a unified way. We also need to continue to go about our normal business. One of the objects of terrorism is to shut everything down."


* Janklow directed the state Health Department to assist in any coordinated blood drives to help victims elsewhere in the nation. Further details will be announced from the Health Department when they become available.


* Janklow took questions for approximately one hour on South Dakota Public Radio's mid-day Forum program. He was already scheduled to appear on the program. A digital recording can be accessed via the Internet at www.sdpb.org.

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