George Mason University Team Offers Counseling Services to Katrina Victims
FAIRFAX, Va. George Mason University Counseling and Development Program faculty and graduate students in the Counselors Without Borders Project served as the nation’s first counseling student assistance program for victims of Hurricane Katrina during their one-week assignment.
The supervised students provided counseling services from Nov. 17-23 to two Mississippi communities devastated by the hurricane. The students were housed in local churches and received meals from the local community.
The project received logistical support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Mississippi Mental Health Counselors Association and the Mississippi Department of Mental Health, and helped address the unmet mental health needs of the victims of Katrina. The program was created to help respond to a gap in service delivery related to current regulations for mental health providers. Under current rules, providers must be licensed in a mental health discipline and stay on-site for a minimum of two weeks.
The project served as a national pilot program that aims to more effectively address the underserved mental health needs in the Gulf Coast, primarily focused on the psychological devastation associated with the loss of home, family, possessions, jobs, community and security.
Dr. Fred Bemak, professor of counseling and development and director of the Diversity Research and Action Center at George Mason, led the university’s participation in the program.
“This program is truly the first of its kind and is being watched closely by other programs around the country to see if similar university-based projects may be developed and implemented. We are thankful to our university community for supporting us in our efforts and eager to get started making a difference in the lives of the Gulf Coast Hurricane Katrina victims,” he says.
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