Team seeks hurricane survivors

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 19, 2006

VIDALIA &8212;With a new Hurricane season upon us and effects from the last still being felt, one counseling group has their work cut out for them.

The Louisiana Spirit, based out of Baton Rouge, has workers in Avoyelles, LaSalle, Concordia and Catahoula Parishes trying to find &8220;survivors&8221; from Hurricanes Rita and Katrina so that a sense of ease can be delivered, Spirit worker Bill Blair said.

&8220;We call them survivors. We have been going to the gatekeepers of these communities trying to develop strongholds to find out where the survivors are,&8221; he said. &8220;We are going door to door in search of survivors and counseling on better ways on mental health, resources, and things like transportation.&8221;

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The team has been working since just before Rita hit and has been helping those displaced in finding needs such as medical, transportation and counseling. The program is funded by the Louisiana State Department of Mental Health and offers help in numerous forms, Blair said.

&8220;We are here to help and have heard every kind of story you can imagine,&8221; Blair said. &8220;Some have no employment or the medication they need and are basically in bad shape.&8221;

With the hurricane season beginning, Blair said his teams efforts are only growing stronger.

&8220;Our organization tries to stay proactive with the hurricane season coming up,&8221; Blair said. &8220;We try to also be proactive in canvassing the area and reacting to these problems.&8221;

Blair and members of the counseling team will be traveling to schools and churches in the area to help further the search for those in need. Blair said survivors are &8220;just glad to see them,&8221; and once the initial meeting has taken place they stay in touch once a week in promoting their ongoing efforts.

&8220;The anniversary of the disaster is a big deal,&8221; Blair said. &8220;We are trying to de-escalate the feelings of anxiety, frustration and depression. We want them to vent their frustrations and concerns and use these resources.&8221;

The team is made up of mostly survivors who have a background in counseling and social services, Blair said.

&8220;A large portion of our staff are survivors,&8221; he said. &8220;They help by offering a lot of insight and understanding the way people feel to keep us abreast of what&8217;s going on.&8221;

For more information, assistance or a resource list contact The Spirit at 866-388-9651.