July 13, 2020

Volunteers needed for stress debriefing team

In the midst of one of the worst winter storms in our state’s history, we learned of a need for volunteers that is so appropriate to our current situation there is no better time to report it.

The Northeastern Critical Incident Stress Debriefing Team, dispatched from St. Joseph Hospital in Bangor, needs people for its three-member response teams.

Team members are volunteer professionals familiar with emergency services. They are selected from six career groups: mental health officials, emergency medical services personnel, fire service personnel, chaplains, police personnel and emergency room personnel.

Bangor psychologist and CISD team member Beth Bohnet brought the program to our attention this week.

“We need more team members,” she said of the all-volunteer organization that serves four counties and has completed approximately 100 debriefings since its first debriefing in 1988.

CISD services are free and can be requested by any agency. The only agency cost is covering debriefers’ expenses such as travel, meals and lodging, if needed.

CISD was started by a Maryland psychologist who responded to the Potomac River plane crash in the 1980s. The program recognizes that unique stresses encountered in their occupations can affect the quality of life of emergency services personnel.

CISD provides a form of crisis intervention specifically designed to assist emergency workers to reduce the number of psychological casualties among their ranks by providing them with a tool to potentially alleviate overwhelming emotional feelings.

“There is an understandably high burnout rate among these people, and our debriefings are designed to help `normal people who are having normal reactions to an abnormal event,’ process the call and get back to doing their jobs,” Bohnet said.

“Those events might include the death of a co-worker or a child, particularly gruesome accident scenes, difficult extrications or the accumulated stress of several difficult calls in a short space of time.”

Some common physical signs and symptoms of a stress reaction to a traumatic event are nausea, profuse sweating and rapid heartbeat. Mental symptoms can include difficulty making decisions and solving problems, confusion and disorientation. Emotional symptoms can include anxiety, fear, guilt and grief.

Once a request for CISD services is made through SJH, a debriefing is scheduled, usually within 24 to 72 hours.

Bohnet said teams may go months without a request, and then have 10 debriefings in 10 weeks.

“Because debriefings are scheduled on short notice, sometimes require traveling long distances and working around team members’ availability, our team roster needs to include several people from each of the professional categories.’

The debriefing process is confidential. It is not part of an investigation or a critique of an incident, but a group discussion to assure personnel make as quick a recovery as possible. Team members are available after the session for indiviual discussions.

CISD need professional volunteers who have at least three years of experience in their fields. “As you would expect,” Bohnet said, “we have a membership screening process and a training requirement for membership.”

For more information about the team, call the the CISD office at 942-4669.

To contact a team leader, 24 hours a day, call 262-1000.

Firefighters in Hudson fought two house fires in two days this week.

Steve Hussey, his wife and three children lost their home to flames Tuesday, and Steve Scovil, his wife and two children were left homeless when fire consumed their home Wednesday.

Concern for the families is not confined to Hudson. Local safety officer Ron Grant reported, “Help has been coming in from everywhere. It’s been tremendous. We’ve had responses from all over New England, with toys and food and clothes.”

Neighbors are helping as well. Firefighter Frank Feero “decided to do a spaghetti supper for these people,” Grant said.

The benefit supper for the Hussey and Scovil families is 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday at the Hudson Town Hall. Admission is by donation.

Sponsored by the local firefighters association and the Hudson Snowmobile Club, Grant said, “We’re also getting help from the Shop ‘n Save. People have been just great.”

Today through Monday, $5 from every oil change at McQuik’s Oilube will be donated to the American Red Cross to aid storm victims in eastern Maine.

McQuik’s Richard Bean estimates the fund-raiser should garner approximately $4,000 for the two chapters in our area.

A portion of sales at McQuik’s Bangor and Brewer shops will benefit disaster victims in the ARC Pine Tree Chapter area.

Money raised at the Ellsworth location will help people served by the ARC Eastern Maine Chapter in Ellsworth.

McQuik’s is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. except Sunday.

In addition to the Abnaki Girl Scout Council of Brewer, the Kennebec Girl Scout Council of South Portland has extended its cookie sale ordering deadline one week, to Sunday, Feb. 8.

That council serves 10 counties in southern and western Maine including, in the Bangor Daily News circulation area, Kennebec, Lincoln, Knox and parts of Somerset counties. Information on ordering cookies from Kennebec Council members may be obtained by calling 800-660-1072.

The Standpipe, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402; 990-8288.

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