As the six-month anniversary of the deadly
May 3 tornadoes approaches, Project Heartland officials are gearing up for an increase in calls from people trying to cope with the devastation.
Gwen Allen, director of the crisis mental health program begun to help victims of the April 19, 1995, bombing, said some of the
hardest times are still ahead for the tornado victims with the upcoming anniversary and then the holiday season.
"For some reason, the six-month anniversary seems to be a marker time," Ms. Allen said Monday.
Beyond that loom Thanksgiving and Christmas, two holidays normally associated with home. But many victims of the tornadoes are still waiting for their replacement homes to be completed.
Project Heartland announced Monday that it had been awarded a $3.4 million grant to continue to offer assistance to people
affected by the tornadoes, which killed 44 people and destroyed or damaged more than 8,000 homes.
The grant supplements the funding that was initiated in the days after the tornadoes and continues the program through June 30.
The funds awarded by the federal Center for Mental Health Services will come in the way of a Federal Emergency Management
Services supported by the grant include outreach, crisis intervention, crisis counseling for individuals and families, support groups, education on trauma and stress and other services.
Ms. Allen said the short-term crisis counseling is being heavily utilized and support groups are just getting started. She said 50 percent or more of the people the counselors are seeing are children.
She said they are working with school-age children who have developed behavior problems or regressive behavior. The children
have lost their homes and are having trouble getting back into the swing of things, she said.
Ms. Allen said the calls from parents requesting help for their children began within two or three days of the tornadoes.
Project Heartland plans a three-week advertising campaign geared to letting people know about the services that are available.
By the end of August, 261 clients had received services through the short-term grant. Outreach workers had contacted 27,426 people
in the disaster area to offer information and other assistance. Ms. Allen didn't have numbers for September.
"It sometimes takes months before symptoms of trauma become obvious," she said. "Those who experienced losses may feel
overwhelmed, exhausted and irritable. Marriages can become strained and children may be fearful or develop behavior problems. We can help people learn skills to relieve stress and better cope with challenges."
Project Heartland was established after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, in which 168 people died and more than 500 were injured.
Ms. Allen said Project Heartland had two people available at Michael Fortier's sentencing on Monday. She said the number of
calls from people affected by the bombing usually increases around the time of court hearings and court filings.
She said the counselors also still are sometimes hearing for the first time from people affected by the bombing.
The Associated Press.