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Promoting disaster mental health preparedness among faith-based organizations in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania

Gray, Adam (2015) Promoting disaster mental health preparedness among faith-based organizations in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Master Essay, University of Pittsburgh.

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Psychological resiliency to disasters has been a growing focus of emergency management in recent years. The major psychosocial impacts of disasters include stress-induced psychological disorders, relational problems, increased substance abuse, and the disruption of beneficial social networks. These outcomes negatively impact resilience at individual and community levels. Demands for mental health interventions following disaster can rapidly overwhelm mental health providers’ ability to meet mental health needs. Recent literature has proposed training unlicensed mental health providers to augment the services of licensed mental health providers and chaplains. This paper describes an effort to strengthen disaster mental health response capacity through the integration of faith-based organizations as providers of disaster mental health and Spiritual Care services. This project was sponsored through collaboration between Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania and the Allegheny County Department of Human Services. Outreach was conducted in eight communities in Eastern Allegheny County over a one-year period. Outreach activities involved interviewing faith leaders, presenting to ministerial associations, and organizing informational meetings. The three goals of the community outreach were to educate faith-based organizations about the role of faith-based organizations in disasters, to provide a point of contact for further information, and to encourage participation with the Allegheny County Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD). At the end of the outreach period, fifty-seven organizations were contacted, a total of four congregations expressed an interest in becoming active in disaster response, and four ministerial organizations began discussing their role in disaster preparedness and response. Outreach activities resulted in marginal success in promoting continued participation. Four primary barriers became apparent: frequent leadership turnover, funding limitations, competing time commitments, and volunteer liability concerns. Additionally, a major finding suggests that an active VOAD is a crucial component of sustaining a well-organized reserve of volunteer personnel with a readiness to respond. This community organizing effort holds public health significance by identifying how faith-based organizations may potentially be a community resource to help alleviate the burden of psychiatric stress.


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Item Type: Other Thesis, Dissertation, or Long Paper (Master Essay)
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Gray, Adam
Date: 23 April 2015
Date Type: Publication
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Publisher: University of Pittsburgh
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Public Health > Behavioral and Community Health Sciences
Degree: MPH - Master of Public Health
Thesis Type: Master Essay
Refereed: Yes
Date Deposited: 21 Oct 2015 17:30
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2018 00:56


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