Resources for State and Local Governments

Emergencies can have a significant impact on individuals’ mental and behavioral health. State and local health departments should include mental health management in each phase of a disaster (pre-event, response, recovery, and evaluation).

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Hotline: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746.
  • People with deafness or hearing loss can use their preferred relay service to call 1-800-985-5990.

Pre-Event Phase

A group of diverse people stand in a circle holding hands raised up above their heads. They are outside in a green, grassy field. They are smiling at each other.

Assess the demographic and social characteristics of your community

Assess:

Assess these community characteristics:

  • Culture, religion, ethnicity
  • Shared values
  • Social resources
  • At-risk populations
  • Language spoken
  • Average level of education
  • Access to healthcare
  • Local non-government and community-based organizations

Plan

A group of public health planners and mental health professionals meet to build partnerships prior to an emergency. A group of four women sits in a circle talking. The woman in focus at the center of the picture is wearing a pink sweater, brown pants, and is holding a cup of coffee. She has a big smile on her face, and she is using her hands expressively as she talks.

Establish relationships with mental health partners ahead of time.

  • Establish the role of partners, like community-based organizations, in mental health services during an emergency.
  • Identify and train mental health professionals and response staff to provide counseling, triage, outreach, and education during a crisis or emergency.
  • Plan for interpreter and translation services.
  • Train provider groups, including public health nurses, school health professionals, and community support workers in psychosocial consequences of terrorism and disasters.
  • Develop a risk communication plan and templates.
  • Develop a triage system to connect victims with emergency mental health services when needed.

Response Phase

Hands holding a document.

Establish relationships with mental health partners ahead of time.

  • First meet basic safety and security needs of target populations.
  • Provide Psychological First Aidexternal icon at response sites.
  • Use crisis and emergency risk communication principles in all messaging.
  • Continue to monitor the mental health needs of victims and responders.
  • Provide access to counselors in all appropriate languages.
  • Distribute educational information appropriate to the event.
  • Use triage system to connect victims in acute distress with professional services.
  • Provide coping resources for responders and their families.

Recovery Phase

People gathered in front of a memorial.

Give the community opportunities to come together.

  • Continue to monitor mental health needs in the affected population.
  • Train social and community leaders on how to help their groups cope.
  • Give the community opportunities to come together.
  • Promote availability of coping resources.
  • Anticipate and plan to deal with trauma reminders (such as anniversaries of the event date, or the broadcast of similar incidents on the news).

Evaluation Phase

  • Monitor for long-term mental stress in the community and for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
  • Identify and address gaps in your mental health preparedness plan.

Additional Resources

Page last reviewed: March 19, 2018