Public Health Emergency - Leading a Nation Prepared
On October 1, 2015, in Roseburg, Oregon at Umpqua Community College, students gathered for their Intro to Creative Writing class. Moments later, tragedy struck. A 26-year-old male student fatally shot his professor and eight fellow students in the classroom. Nine other students were also injured before the incident ended. The mass shooting was the deadliest in Oregon's modern history, and left a profound and lasting effect on the local community.
As the community, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), and the Region 3 Coalition addressed immediate needs, including collaborating with the FBI Victims Assistance and the local District Attorney’s Office, the Red Cross, and grappling with family reunification, the longer term behavioral health needs became apparent. The Region 3 Health Care Coalition (HCC), a diverse coalition of health care, public health and emergency management members funded through the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) and OHA responded to a request from the community to create a safe outlet to discuss the incident in a judgment free space. These groups working together stood up the Umpqua Wellness Center to provide grief and behavioral health counseling and support for those navigating the tragic shooting.
In order to staff the community center, the OHA utilized Oregon’s Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals (ESAR-VHP) to recruit, staff, and hire community health support. ESAR-VHP is a federal program run by the National Healthcare Preparedness Programs (NHPP) that supports states and territories in establishing standardized volunteer registration programs for disasters and public health and medical emergencies. With ESAR-VHP and HPP support, OHA recruited 10 volunteers who generously served for 16 weeks. Akiko Saito, Operations Chief for the OHA Public Health Division-Health Security Preparedness and Response Program, said, “Because of previous ESAR-VHP and HPP funding, we were able to build our ESAR-VHP program-State Emergency Registry of Volunteers in Oregon (SERV-OR) and staff the community wellness center appropriately. We built SERV-OR from the ground up, and truly wouldn’t be where we are today without HPP.”
The Umpqua Wellness Center strengthened the resilience of a community. Throughout the life of the wellness center, SERV-OR volunteers saw 56 clients and provided more than 1,700 hours of clinical support. Additionally, the Umpqua Wellness Center was able to meet a unique need by assisting an unexpected number of first responders who came to the center seeking support to cope with the aftermath of the incident. The Umpqua Wellness Center and HPP helped its community through the spectrum of needs after the shooting, from immediate family reunification to longer term behavioral health support and assisted a grieving community as it processed the tragedy it had endured.
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