Jeffco’s Colorado Spirit flood support team wants residents of mountain communities affected by September’s flooding to know a variety of assistance is still available.
And that includes emotional support.
The three-person support team, funded for a year by a grant from FEMA, has worked its way through the county door to door offering help to residents dealing with the aftermath of the flooding.
Tom Olbrich, disaster coordinator at the Jefferson Center for Mental Health, said that assistance can come in the form of help in navigating insurance companies’ red tape, in finding the right resources available, or in simply providing an ear to listen.
“I think it’s been an interesting process. There were people who had an initial crisis related to the loss of property, and there were a lot of resources available in the first few weeks,” Olbrich said. “What we’re seeing is there is a sustained impact on people where it wasn’t immediately apparent.”
One of the biggest sources of stress for residents in Jeffco’s mountain communities is traveling to lower altitudes, Olbrich said. Commute times, due to road damage, have been doubled for some people.
Longer commute times mean more money spent on gasoline and more time away from homes. Some residents who live in the mountains but work near Denver told Olbrich they’ve had to temporarily move closer to work.
“Those are the kind of things that wear on people over time and create stress for people,” Olbrich said. “As the holidays come around and people have had to spend money on repairs, they may not have enough money for holiday traditions, which causes more stress.”
Olbrich said that while the group is trained in counseling, the team doesn’t directly inquire if people need emotional support.
“We don’t call it ‘mental health work’ because of the stigma in our society about mental health,” Olbrich said. “We don’t require you to come to a counselor’s office for a 50-minute session. It’s a very flexible program that tries to eliminate the stigma of coming into a mental health office.”
Kayla Stauder, the support team’s leader, said the team has heard from residents for whom stress has affected relationships with family and friends.
“It’s primarily having an impact on relationships with their families. Parents are reporting they’re quicker to anger with their kids or easily stressed out,” Stauder said.
While the stress has taken its toll on the mountain communities, Stauder said she and her team have been impressed by how residents have pulled together to rebuild.
“It’s been really rewarding. It’s neat to see the communities come together in times like this and see the resilience they’ve built up,” Stauder said. “Our entire team has been inspired by their stories.”
To request the flood support team’s services, call 720-470-0819 or e-mail email@example.com.
Contact Ramsey Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-933-2233, ext. 22, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyColumbine.