The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved $127,584 for the state of Tennessee to offer mental health counseling to help Hurricane Katrina evacuees in Tennessee cope with stress and other emotional issues resulting from their experience.
Katrina evacuees with disaster-related stress may call toll-free 1-800-809-9957 anytime, seven days a week. This number puts them in touch with the crisis services office nearest their location in Tennessee.
FEMA and state disaster officials point out that seeking emotional help is smart and practical.  “While hurricane victims focus on repairing homes, they must remember that they need to rebuild their emotional strength,” said Paul Fay, FEMA’s federal coordinating officer at the Atlanta Joint Field Office. He emphasized that this emotional stress is not mental illness.
Officials said stress and inability to cope often appear weeks or months after traumatic events.  Disaster victims may experience any of several emotional responses including anger, fatigue, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, depression, nightmares, inability to concentrate, hyperactivity, drug use and increased use of alcohol.
Funded under FEMA’s Crisis Counseling Program, the “Tenn-K Response Project” is managed by the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities. With the federal money, the state contracts with mental health service providers to reach out to evacuees in the community and respond to referrals made by community liaisons, police, firefighters, churches, individuals, friends, or family.  The counselors will provide services in shelters, the state’s disaster assistance centers, schools, temporary housing sites, mobile home parks, and other locations where evacuees are housed.

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