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One month after the disaster, U of M faculty member and grad reflects on her role in Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts

Carolyn Garcia (center) and fellow Red Cross volunteers

Since slamming the East Coast one month ago yesterday, Hurricane Sandy has resulted in more than 100 deaths and tallied an  expected price tag of more than $42 billion in damages.

Recovery is without a doubt a continuing process, said University of Minnesota graduate and current faculty member, Carolyn M. Garcia, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.N., an associate professor in the University of Minnesota School of Nursing and member of the University’s Medical Reserve Corps who has taken part in early Sandy recovery efforts.

Garcia, a Red Cross volunteer for disaster response for the past 19 years, has helped in relief efforts surrounding the 35W bridge collapse, Wisconsin tornadoes, 9/11 terrorist attacks and hurricanes in Puerto Rico.

“A lot of people pay close attention in the early days and weeks after a natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy,” said Garcia, “but recovery is an ongoing process. For the people who are working to rebuild their homes and lives, recovery hasn’t stopped just because time has passed. They continue to recover and there are still volunteers out there and work to be done.”

Some shelters, including those where Garcia volunteered in Staten Island, are still housing people.

“The people who remain are often those with fewer resources,” said Garcia, “including individuals with limited social networks, the mentally or chronically ill, and low income families with young children.”

Alongside the physical recovery and ongoing efforts to provide permanent homes, post-disaster mental recovery is also taking place. Steps to mental recovery often parallel the five stages of grief: Denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

With the initial “grieving” phases of shock and disbelief accompanied by outside support behind, Garcia notes there is a refreshed need for counseling and mental health support for the hurricane survivors trying to move forward.

“There’s still a need for volunteers, aid, family sponsorship and support,” said Garcia, citing that the Red Cross is still deploying volunteers for Sandy efforts. “The needs of these families who have lost everything should not be forgotten.”

  1. November 30, 2012 4:10 pm | Cynthia Gill Says:

    Well said, Carolyn! I know that there is a humanitarian aid program associated with mental health professionals who use EMDR to help victims of trauma in disaster areas. As you probably know, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) is a very effective modality used to treat trauma. The organization is EMDRIA-HAP, and there is no shortage of info about it available. I remember when you came to my classes to tell my students about your work in Rwanda, and after 911 in NYC. Keep up the good work!

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