UC Irvine Health program helps address Flint water crisis mental health issues

Listen, Protect, Connect deployed in community to provide psychological support

March 29, 2016

A program developed by UC Irvine Health trauma/disaster psychology expert Merritt D. Schreiber, PhD is being used to help provide basic psychological support to those affected by the lead-tainted water crisis in Flint, Mich. Schreiber also trained the federal and state mental health services relief team members assigned to train local Flint volunteers.

The Listen, Protect, Connect program has been deployed nationally and locally to teach volunteers how to help survivors cope with the emotional and mental distress caused by traumatic events. It was launched last month in Flint, where more than 200 volunteers have received training so far.

“This program is a psychological first-aid model designed to help members of the community help each other. Volunteers can be quickly mobilized in a very personal, meaningful way to reach out and support those around them in a time of disaster,” Schreiber said. “Early intervention enables us to help resolve immediate issues and connect people with resources for extended care.”

Nancy Kirsh, manager of training and academic development for the Genesee Health System, is directing the program in Flint. GHS is the primary mental health organization serving Flint and Genesee County. She said the Listen, Protect, Connect program has been very well-received because it offers a common-sense approach that focuses on local people who want to get involved and be part of the relief effort.

“Our particular crisis is unique, so Dr. Schreiber worked very closely with us to tailor the curriculum to include lead-related material and local resources to accommodate the situation,” Kirsh said. “Implementing this program has enabled us to meet specific neighborhood needs and to extend our connections throughout the community as we work together to rebuild trust and resilience.”

An expert in children’s disaster issues, Schreiber is involved in the creation of best-practice models bridging medical, mental and public health in mass casualty events. As part of international humanitarian relief efforts, translated versions of his Listen, Protect, Connect program were distributed after the 2008 earthquake in China, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and the 2011 tsunami in Japan.

Schreiber also developed the PsySTART mental health triage and incident management system, which has been used by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assess the mental health of survivors of the 2004 earthquake-tsunami in Thailand, the 2009 earthquake-tsunami in American Samoa and the 2014 South Napa earthquake in California, as well as by the American Red Cross in response to Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

UC Irvine Health comprises the clinical, medical education and research enterprises of the University of California, Irvine. Patients can access UC Irvine Health at physician offices throughout Orange County and at its main campus, UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, Calif., a 411-bed acute care hospital that provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, and behavioral health and rehabilitation services. U.S. News & World Report has listed it among America’s Best Hospitals for 15 consecutive years. UC Irvine Medical Center is home to Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, high-risk perinatal/neonatal program, Level I trauma center and Level II pediatric trauma center, and it is the primary teaching hospital for the UC Irvine School of Medicine. UC Irvine Health serves a region of more than 3 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About the University of California, Irvine: Currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, UC Irvine is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, the university has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $4.8 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UC Irvine, visit www.uci.edu.

View by Category