Journal of Public Health Management & Practice
November 2005, Volume 11 Number 6 - Supplement: November/December 2005 , p S57 - S62
The need for mental health interventions in disasters has long been recognized. The Florida Center for Public Health Preparedness (FCPHP) has been providing disaster mental health training to employees of the Florida Department of Health and others since 2001. One of the training programs was Bioterrorism Trauma Intervention Specialist Training (BTIST), offered between May 2003 and January 2004. The FCPHP has also developed three distance learning courses, including one that provides advice to responders who are experiencing compassion fatigue. The BTIST curriculum prepares participants to provide mental health interventions during and following disasters. The four hurricanes that struck Florida in a 7-week period in 2004 created a great demand for mental health services. The FCPHP supported the Florida Department of Health response effort by providing a roster of BTIST trainees and hundreds of copies of the compassion fatigue audio CD. The FCPHP conducted a Web-based survey of the BTIST participants after the hurricanes. A large majority of respondents reported that the training had given them greater knowledge of disaster mental health, provided many disaster mental health skills, and the skills had been valuable in their professional and personal lives. Most of those who had actively responded to the hurricanes indicated that the training had given them confidence for their response and that they had used the acquired skills in their response efforts.