Crisis Response Team seeks help

Published 9:10 am Monday, October 27, 2008

When the Freeborn County Crisis Response Team was organized 10 years ago, its coordinators never anticipated the group would be used as much as it has been.

The team, which is made up of trained volunteers who go into the community to give support to people who have been traumatized by disaster, has worked with people both in and out of the state. It has supported people who have been affected by hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, floods, vehicle crashes, a murder-suicide and even a neighborhood shooting. It has helped in the aftermath of a traumatic faculty death at Albert Lea High School and in the aftermath of an industrial death of an employee in front of other workers.

Rose Olmsted, the coordinator of the Crisis Response Team, said though it’s impossible to predict when a natural or man-made disaster is going to happen next, the team works hard to be prepared for anything.

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Now, the team is looking for additional volunteers to provide support to those in need. Volunteers can be anyone over 13 who is interested in working with people who have experienced trauma. Children under 18 must have parental consent.

Volunteers go through 24 hours of training on the first three Saturdays of November, learning about the fundamentals of crisis and trauma and how to adapt basic intervention to people in the area.

Who: Anyone over the age of 13 (parental consent required for those under 18).

What: The team is made up of a group of volunteers trained to go out into the community to be supportive of people who have been traumatized by disaster.

When: Applications due Wednesday; the next crisis response training will be Nov. 8, 15 and 22 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Department of Human Services, 203 W. Clark St., Albert Lea.

Information: Contact Rose Olmsted, the Crisis Response Team coordinator, at 377-5461.

The Crisis Response Team provides three major services: companioning, where a volunteer provides a listening ear and support to traumatized individuals immediately after an event; giving trauma presentations, where a volunteer will give a 90-minute presentation on trauma and its effect on an individual physically, behaviorally and emotionally; and providing group crisis interventions, where a trained facilitator and scribe will help individuals through a process of resiliency somewhere between 24 and 72 hours after the disaster.

The Freeborn County Crisis Response Team is the only team trained by the National Organization for Victim Assistance in all of Minnesota.

“It’s about providing emotional support — about giving people a chance to talk about what’s happened after they’ve experienced,” Olmsted said.

It began in 1998 when she went through the National Organization for Victim Assistance training, and from then until 2000, the team was initially organized.

It has since assisted in 37 different cases, most of which have been inside Freeborn County.

One volunteer, Judy Popp-Anderson, who has been a part of the team since it began, said she first got involved after some trauma in one of the area schools.

“What we hoped for is that we’d never need this, but we have,” Popp-Anderson said. “It’s been used quite a few times.”

Both Olmsted and Popp-Anderson wanted to let people know that they don’t have to be a trained counselor or a person with a degree to become a part of the Crisis Response Team.

“Most of the volunteers are everyday people who want to help their neighbors,” Popp-Anderson said.

“I really want to dispel the myth that people have to have a degree,” Olmsted added. “You need compassion. You need a willingness to listen to people’s stories … Some of my best volunteers are people who have no education.”

The team participates in ongoing training to learn new skills and is a part of the yearly disaster drills in Albert Lea.

To find out more information about the team or to have an application mailed to you, call Olmsted at 377-5461.