In crisis, help is welcome
February 5, 2013
A Park City woman is sponsoring a crisis response training class to help people and groups during times of crisis, such as a death in a school or an incident like the Trolley Square shooting in Salt Lake City a few years ago.
"It’s not meant for blood and guts clean up but for psychological support. It’s for rebuilding and healing, and to provide tools and mechanisms to band together or to seek out resources," said Kari Rasmussen, who is sponsoring the class. "Say a kid commits suicide at Park City High School. Obviously his family is impacted. But the students and teachers are impacted as well."
If such an event occurs, the school can call on certified volunteers to talk to individuals one-on-one or to hold community meetings to help people grieve and talk about the impacts and to offer support services.
The training is part of the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA) program, which provides support and assistance to people involved in environmental or human-caused crisis situations.
Law enforcement and medical personnel attended to the Trolley Square shooting, "but there wasn’t anyone to address the psychological impact and the collateral damage," Rasmussen said. "Sure you’ve got the parents grieving over that kid. But you’ve also got the Jones’ sitting nearby with blood spatter on them."
The first Utah NOVA group went through the initial training last September.
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"Our strategy is to get a second group of people together for the initial training, then get both groups together for the advanced certification course where they actually get certified," she said.
During the first initial training, the participants did a mock exercise where a drunk semi-truck driver ran into a fast food store in Kimball Junction, killing some people while maiming others. In the scenario, the driver’s mother was a prominent member of the Summit County community.
"So there are ties in the community, and you learn to deal with people in those capacities," she said. "And you can appreciate how many lives that would impact: family after family after family."
Not only are professionals such as first responders and school counselors invited to take the course, but Rasmussen welcomes anyone from any background.
"I’m nobody," she said. "I’m an office manager for a medical practice. I’m not credentialed. I don’t have mental health training. So anyone can do it. And we encourage anybody to, because it helps to have different people with different skill sets."
Those who volunteer may need to be ready to travel on short notice.
"Let’s say there is a crisis in Louisiana and NOVA has a list of people that are certified," she said. "They would call me and ask if I can respond. They pay for airfare and lodging, and get me there as quickly as is appropriate. If it’s something like Sept. 11, they rotate people until it calms down. It’s elective but there’s an expectation that when you sign up for this, you are reasonably available should they need you."
The organization is looking for participants from all parts of the state.
"If something happens in Ogden, it would be nice to have somebody from Ogden who knows what’s going on, knows the community, the infrastructure and mental health. It can happen anywhere at any time," she said.
Rasmussen recommends the initial training, even if people don’t intend to certify for NOVA.
She used the skills she gained while volunteering for Casting for Recovery, where she helped women suffering from breast cancer to learn how to fly fish.
"The class is a life changer," she said. "The information was so transferable. It helped me know how to interact with them, empathize with them and understand them. It helps just in what we do day in and day out. There’s so much we can apply to our personal life. The skill set and resources you gain are so valuable."
The crisis response training class will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 20 to 22 at the Rocky Mountain Eye Center Board Room at 4400 South 700 East in Salt Lake City.
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