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crisis counseling programs


"A new Iowan  was hospitalized as he neared death.  The man told me that the Responding to Katrina staff gave him a reason to keep trying to live.  It was wonderful to walk part of that journey with him." -Responding to Katrina outreach worker


"Even in the midst of disaster, a smiling face and a loving compassion can go a long way to making people feel it isn't as bad as it seems.  We don't know what we would have done without them   [outreach workers]."                  - Person helped by Iowa Recovers


We had 12 acres of down corn, which isn't a lot, but it sure did add a lot of stress to my husband.  But we learned through the years to take all of this in stride - it is what farming is all about: one step forward and sometimes two backwards." - Person helped by Iowa Recovers


AgriWellness has provided training for the Iowa's Disaster Behavioral Health Response Team. These are Iowans who are prepared to respond to disasters of all types and provide crisis counseling and referral assistance to the affected persons.  There are currently approximately 60 persons in the CDBHRT.  The team has responded as part of the following five crisis counseling programs.  Please click here to view a booklet of recent CDBHRT accomplishments.

IOWA RECOVERS 2007: Eastern Iowa Tornadoes

On Friday, June 1, 2007, one or more F-2 tornadoes made a northeasterly swath, beginning near Grandview in Louisa County, through Fruitland and Muscatine in Muscatine County and descending again near Bellevue in Jackson County, Iowa.  No one was killed but early assessments indicated that almost 250 homes were damaged or destroyed and many people were displaced.

Iowa Governor Chet Culver declared Jackson, Louisa and Muscatine counties eligible for state disaster assistance and requested immediate disaster behavioral health assistance for persons affected by the storms. Iowa’s Governor requested immediate supports, consisting of assessment of need, triage, mobilization of emotional supports and possible follow-up as necessary.  AgriWellness, Inc. contracted with the Iowa Department of Human Services to provide these services.

The project officially ended on July 22, 2007.  During the course of the program, the seven crisis counselors undertook 462 individual crisis counseling contacts with persons affected by the tornadoes and conducted 201 educational contacts in the three counties.  

Photos: tornado damage in Fruitland, IA, June 2007. Photos courtesy of Samantha Truesdale.

IOWA RECOVERS 2007: Western Iowa Floods  

Very heavy rains of up to seven inches of precipitation in a 24 hour period caused locally severe flooding in southwestern Iowa in May 2007.  Governor Chet Culver sought a Federal Disaster Declaration, which was approved on May 25, 2007 by President George W. Bush.  This declaration made eleven Iowa counties eligible for individual and public assistance (Cass, Fremont, Harrison, Ida, Mills, Montgomery, Page, Pottawattamie, Shelby, Taylor and Union) and six additional counties available for public assistance only (Audubon, Clarke, Crawford, Decatur, Ringgold and Sac).  In late June, four counties (Crawford, Dallas, Decatur and Monona) were added to the original eleven approved for individual assistance.

The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) contracted with AgriWellness, Inc., to implement a crisis counseling program in the flood damaged counties for the time period: May 28 – July 13, 2007. The eight-person outreach worker team conducted 115 individual crisis counseling contacts and 1,136 educational contacts during the six week program.  The staff conducted assessment of need for assistance and case-finding in all 15 counties while concentrating on the counties that were most severely affected by the floods.  Although only about 100 homes experienced major damages and about a dozen homes were destroyed to the point of being uninhabitable, approximately 4,000 homes were affected to some degree, mostly by water seepage into basements that ruined carpets, appliances, wicked up walls and often contained sewage.  The floods caused a great deal of stress and fatigue but no loss of life or serious injuries.    

 Top photo:  breached levee in Missouri Valley, IA; bottom photo: aeriel view of Missouri Valley, IA.  May 2007. Photos courtesy of www.mvflood.com.

Responding to Katrina

After Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast at the end of August, 2004, thousands of people moved to other states at least temporarily.

The state of Iowa initiated a crisis counseling program (CCP) in September 2005, to provide support to persons who had relocated to Iowa because of Hurricane Katrina.  The Iowa Department of Human Services contracted with AgriWellness to manage the Responding to Katrina crisis counseling program.  A dozen outreach workers who were part of the Iowa's trained behavioral health disaster responders provided emergency CCP services until additional outreach workers were recruited to include several relocated persons and several persons of color who are also familiar with the culture of relocated persons.  They first trained together on September 29 - 30, 2005.  The Regular Services Program outreach staff eventually coalesced at 22 outreach workers. The program concluded in December 31, 2006.

The project staff provided 1,194 individual crisis counseling contacts and provided group crisis counseling services to 654 persons.  The project staff reached 2,255 persons in educational contacts. The outreach workers reported 2,447 telephone contacts with service recipients, 730 email contacts and provided materials in 1,343 individual instances and in five mass mailings entailing over 5,000 mailed pieces.  Several major therapeutic events were made possible through the RSP, in conjunction with donated funds and time and a federal Social Services Block Grant for Disaster Emergency Relief, including the Hurricanes and Hope: Celebrating the Journey into Iowa event held at the Iowa State Fair. Hurricane Katrina anniversary events were also held on August 29, 2006 in many locations where new Iowans congregated in the state.

The needs of persons for Responding to Katrina CCP assistance were different from any previous CCP program in Iowa because their trauma was more severe and the recipients of the services were not native to Iowa.  Some people experienced the death of relatives, friends and acquaintances; all lost access to their homes at least temporarily and many permanently; most of the new Iowans lost their former employment positions at least for a while; many experienced geographic shock because of changes inherent in moving from largely urban areas in the deep south to the rural Midwest, including climate, terrain, demographics and lifestyles.

Iowa Recovers

AgriWellness coordinated Iowa Recovers, a counseling program funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency through the Iowa Department of Human Services to assist Iowans in recovery from 110 flash floods and 69 tornadoes that hit Iowa in late May/early June, 2004.

Twenty-five outreach workers, four team leaders and project administrative staff conducted 1,926 individual crisis counseling contacts, 279 group contacts, 1,527 educational services, and distributed information to 6,199 persons.  The project served the 75 disaster-declared counties in Iowa.

By contractual arrangement with the Iowa Department of Human Services, and with the assistance of the State Public Policy Group in Des Moines and Iowa State University, AgriWellness, Inc. provided a ten-hour training program to strengthen Iowa's mental health and substance abuse response to disasters of all types to 39 participants and prepared 31 persons to serve as a ready reserve of outreach workers to provide crisis counseling program assistance following disasters of all types.


Multiple tornadoes damaged parts of nine communities in six central Iowa counties on Saturday afternoon, November 12, 2005.  Approximately 40 homes or businesses in and around Woodward (northern Boone County) were destroyed or severely damaged.  Stratford and the surrounding area (northern Hamilton County and southern Webster County) experienced less widespread but more severe destruction to 30 homes and/or places of business and less damage to several other locations.  One Stratford resident died and three other residents were injured because of the storms.  Other rural areas also sustained damages.

Iowa's Governor (then Tom Vilsack) declared the five main affected counties (Boone, Dallas, Hamilton, Hardin and Story) a disaster area and asked the Iowa Department of Human Services to implement a crisis counseling program to assist persons with behavioral health issues that ensued as a result of the storms.  AgriWellness, Inc., carried out the crisis counseling program.





Double-wide home flipped on top in Woodward, IA. F2 damage.
Photo from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrator's National Weather Service

The Responding to Iowa’s Tornadoes, 2005 project employed nine persons who are members of Iowa’s CDBHRT.  They began deployment to the hardest hit communities of Woodward and Stratford November 19.  The project ended on December 19, 2005. 

Outreach workers canvassed all the areas known to have been damaged by tornadoes in the five-declared counties.  They concentrated their efforts to contact victims in Woodward and Stratford.  They contacted individuals and families at their damaged homes, businesses, or temporary residences and mingled with folks at restaurants and community meeting sites.  The outreach workers met privately with individuals and families who needed opportunities to talk confidentially, sometimes sitting in cars or in homes.  They also distributed brochures and fliers about coping with loss and resource guides

The nature of crisis counseling programs is to make services available shortly after the immediate devastation has subsided and safety has been reestablished.  Providing psychological first aid just a few days after the traumatic event was helpful, as many of the victims of the November 12 tornadoes testified to the outreach workers in this project.  Iowa's CDBHRT of outreach workers proved themselves as effective behavioral health responders.

For additional information about the CDBHRT or Crisis Counseling Programs, email AgriWellness