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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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Texas Moves Full-Speed Ahead to Implement Health and Social Service Projects to Improve Resilience and Build Sustainability

Author: C. Kaleinani Lau, MPH, Field Coordinator, Health and Social Services Recovery Support Function (RSF), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and Public Health Analyst, Health Resources and Services Administration, Bureau of Primary Health Care
Published Date: 3/19/2018 4:48:00 PM
Category: National Health Security; Public Health Preparedness; Response & Recovery;

More than six months after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, Texas is still recovering. But, with so many people and organizations in need of help, where is the best way for the state of Texas and its partners to focus their health and social services recovery efforts?

Six teams of recovery specialists, led by the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, worked with representatives from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas Department of State Health Services to identify projects as a part of the Health and Social Services Landscape Assessment, which was completed in October 2017.

The assessment found high, sustained levels of stress among responders, clergy, caregivers, school staff members, and students. Health care providers (e.g., hospitals, physicians’ practices, skilled nursing facilities, institutional providers, and other non-institutional providers in rural areas) lacked sufficient access to medical equipment and supplies, pharmaceutical supplies, and medical transport. Plus, existing behavioral health services could not meet the current needs.

With assessment data in hand, Texas Governor Greg Abbott was quick to request follow-up assistance from HHS to support five health and social service projects; the immediate goal being to help the hardest hit areas in Texas recover from the damage caused by Harvey. The long-term goal is to provide Texas health and human service facilities the information and resources needed to enhance their systems statewide and build resiliency for future storms.

  1. Peer‐to-Peer Education Sector Project. This project aims to facilitate multiple peer-to-peer mentoring workshops that provide an opportunity for school district leaders, such as those in New York, Florida, Louisiana, and Connecticut, who have experience with disaster recovery, to interact and share lessons learned with Texas school district leaders currently engaged in recovery. The peer-to-peer mentoring provides a support system for school leaders, helping them to build capacity through improved problem-solving capabilities and resource procurement.
  2. Children and Youth Planning Workshops Recovery Project. This project aims to establish Children and Youth Task Forces (CYTF) in several affected counties to help identify and address children, youth, and family service needs during the preparation, response, and recovery phases of a disaster. Through a planning workshop, a county agency along with child-serving stakeholders at the state and federal levels, non-profit and private organizations, and national voluntary organizations active in disasters will meet to discuss child and youth recovery needs. The CYTF model has been implemented in several recent disasters, including the Joplin, Missouri tornadoes, Hurricane Isaac, and Superstorm Sandy.
  3. Health Care Systems Recovery Capacity and Capabilities Project. This project aims to heighten awareness of and engage in efforts to address the unmet needs among health care providers whose facilities, services, and client base were affected by Hurricane Harvey. Through regional and local meetings, the HSS RSF will share a resource tool kit on how to leverage existing relationships and emerging opportunities between federal and regional partners, local health authorities, and state health care coalitions (HCCs) to address supply issues and other barriers to expeditious recovery.
  4. Psychological First Aid Train the Trainer (TtT) Project. This project aims to train and build a cadre of school personnel, farmers and ranchers, behavioral health professionals, and disaster recovery workers to teach Psychological First Aid (PFA). TtT programs are designed to increase the number of people who have the knowledge and skills to support the behavioral health needs of community members, children, and youth by identifying risk behaviors for negative behavioral health outcomes, recognizing common stress reactions, sharing self-care strategies, and making referrals as appropriate.
  5. Peer Support Program for First Responders Project. This project aims to increase state/county capacity to provide a peer support program to help first responders who are experiencing higher than usual level of stress, anxiety, and negative feelings. To become certified peer supporters, volunteer fire fighters will receive training from experienced fire service and behavioral health clinicians. The course will focus on active listening, suicide awareness and prevention, crisis intervention, referrals to local resources, and relationships with local behavioral health providers.

Once these projects are complete, the federal government will utilize lessons learned from each project to improve the resources and services it offers other states during the post-disaster recovery phase.

The landscape assessment and project-based technical assistance provided to Governor Abbott is available to any state, local, territorial, or tribal official that activates the Health and Social Services Recovery Support Function within the National Disaster Recovery Framework.

Need disaster recovery subject matter expertise, technical assistance, or planning support? See what the federal government’s Health and Social Services Recovery Support Function can do for your state. State, local, territorial, or tribal officials with questions can reach out to the ASPR Recovery Team.​


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