DMHI team departs for New York The USD DMHI team departing for New York City includes doctoral student Kim Douchis, staffers Randall Quevillon, Gerard Jacobs, Elizabeth Todd-Bazemore and former staff member Lisa Bye, a Vermillion Red Cross volunteer. Seated is senior secretary Kristy Ostrom. Not shown, is student Sean Stephens The call came at 8:15 a.m. Sept. 14 to activate the Disaster Mental Health Institute (DMHI) team of experts from The University of South Dakota to help cope with the aftermath of the Sept. 11 disaster involving the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.
Dr. Gerard A. Jacobs, director of DMHI, received the call to provide assistance for victims, relatives and rescue workers involved in the attack in New York City from the Disaster Operation Center, located in Washington, DC.
Members of the responding team included: Dr. Jacobs, Dr. Randy Quevillon, chair of the USD psychology department, Dr. Elizabeth Todd-Bazemore, associate professor of clinical psychology program/DMHI, and Lisa Bye, Vermillion community member who has received Red Cross emergency training, and who is currently a middle school counselor at Dakota Valley High School. Sean Stephens and Kim Douchis, doctoral students in clinical disaster psychology, also went as part of the team. The team members departed Sept. 14 to drive to New York City, with the exception of Stephens, who will leave on Sunday to join them.
DMHI is part of the second shift to be activated for the disaster response. Normally a team is asked to respond for 10 days. Jacobs said that having the second shift be activated only three days after the disaster is a sign of how challenging this mission will be.
"This will be a large and challenging operation, but we have the right team to take it on," he said. "The media has been calling most of the week gathering information about what our next step will be."
Jacobs was scheduled to depart Tuesday to be one of the instructors at the Red Cross Orientation Pilot Program on Weapons of Mass Destruction/Terrorism conference at the Clara Barton CenterTM For Domestic Preparedness in Pine Bluff, AR. Ironically, his flight was cancelled due to the attacks on the East Coast.
The DMHI hosted its fourth annual conference in Rapid City in August titled "International Psychosocial Responses to Disasters and Humanitarian Emergencies."
The purpose of the conference was to bring together an international group of researchers and providers with experience responding to disasters, refugee events, and other humanitarian emergencies. The focus was the psychosocial responses to recent major international emergencies, including the floods that struck Venezuela in 1999-2000 and the earthquake that occurred this year in India.
In March, the World Health Organization (WHO) published the Rapid Assessment of Mental Health Needs For Refugees (RAMH) worldwide. The DMHI is one of the three authors of the tool, together with International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). In January 1999, WHO approached the Disaster Mental Health Institute at USD and asked it to join WHO and IFRC in developing the assessment tool for refugees.
The RAMH is designed to measure the mental health needs of refugees in any culture or language in any part of the world. WHO singled out the DMHI for its academic strength and concrete experience in crisis management, and for the cross-cultural and community emphases of the USD doctoral Clinical Psychology Training Program.
The DMHI is one of six South Dakota Board of Regents Centers of Excellence, two of which are located at USD. The DMHI caught the WHO's attention with its work on major disasters including Hurricane Andrew, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the New York crash of TWA Flight 800, and its work with the IFRC in developing models for psychological support programs in developing countries.
Jacobs and fellow faculty, staff and students of the USD Disaster Mental Health Institute have gained national prominence since their work with the families and survivors of United Airlines Flight 232, which crashed in Sioux City, IA, in 1989.