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Aid available to help deal with trauma

Posted Date: 03/23/2022

Aid available to help deal with trauma

Aid available to help deal with trauma


In wake of Tuesday's mass shooting, grief counselors will be made available for first responders, parents, students and family members that are experiencing trauma after the shooting.

Trish German of Muskogee County Emergency Medical Services said "coaches" are put in place to assist workers needing to talk to someone.

"There are a couple of different groups that have reached out to us," she said. "We have our coaches training our coaches that will be doing counseling."

German said the responders took the victims to Saint Francis in Muskogee then two of the victims were taken to Tulsa. Mike McWilliams, a medic and the developer of COACHES (Caring for ourselves and Others Affected by Critical Happenings and Everyday Stressors), a peer support program for MCEMS employees, met with the responders.

"Mike was with the responders around 2:30 a.m. and stayed out there until 5:30 a.m.," German said. "They have the right to talk about it or whatever they want to talk about."

McWilliams said that sometimes responders feel more comfortable talking to a colleague who can relate to what they are experiencing.

"What we do as peers, we have seven people on the team — they're all medics that work here," McWilliams said. "We just give them an opportunity to talk to a peer about what they experienced and to release some of that internal pressure. Then we help them if they feel like talking to a team member is not going to be adequate, then we help them with the assistance program."

McWilliams, who has had training in field traumatology, tactical communications, individual crisis intervention, peer support and psychological first aid, said that his group is also on notice to look for warning signs that someone might need help. He calls the warning signs DANGER.

"It stands for Depression, Anxiety, Negative attitude, Guilt, Exhaustion (physical or emotional) and Rage," he said. "We watch for those danger signs — the abnormal from the normal."

Green Country Behavioral Health Services is also assisting in helping residents deal with the grief and shock. Clinical director Melissa Shofner said several entities have reached out to provide counseling.

"Once we were notified this morning, we have clinicians at Cherokee Elementary, Creek Elementary and Pershing Elementary to do grief counseling and trauma work," she said. "We also have staff at the Muskogee County Head Start site working with the teachers providing counseling."

Shofner said that Green Country is on call with all the schools, the city, the county and has reached out to Fort Gibson schools to provide counseling if needed.

Tim Davidson, director of the Muskogee 9-1-1 Center, said dispatchers who were on duty when the call came in will be required to listen to counselors.

"It took an emotional toll on them last night," he said. "We have a session set up for them when they come on duty. We'll have some counselors for them to visit with."

Davidson said that the dispatchers will be required to "listen to them, but if they want to talk to them, that's up to them."

Lynn Hamlin of the Muskogee Police Department said that the officers who responded to the call also will have to go through a mandatory debriefing.

"We have a peer support team that's part of our agency," she said. "When it's a critical incident it's required. 

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