Members of the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: COURTESY UNITED HATZALAH)
A team of Israeli mental health professionals will arrive in Houston on Thursday morning to help victims of Hurricane Harvey.
The response effort was organized by the Israel Rescue Coalition, which is comprised of hundreds of volunteer responders primarily specializing in search and rescue operations. The IRC has been involved in major disaster relief efforts around the globe, including operations in Japan, Haiti and Nepal.
When asked what was most needed in Houston, the IRC was told that psychological and emotional assistance was a top priority.
“People need help on the ground. They need to be able to wrap their minds around what was lost and they need assistance figuring out how to cope and where to go from here," said Dov Maisel, Director of International Operations for the IRC and Vice President of United Hatzalah. "That is the biggest challenge currently facing all Houston residents who have suffered during Hurricane Harvey."
In order to help people impacted psychologically by the hurricane, the IRC is utilizing the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit
of United Hatzalah, a volunteer-based emergency medical services organization based in Jerusalem with branches around the world.
The Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit deals with situations where bystanders need emotional support -- what United Hatzalah calls "psychological first-aid."
Miriam Ballin, the director of the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit, is a Houston-native and will lead the mission.
“I’m happy to be given the opportunity to head back to my hometown and help during this time of crisis. Our team provides the IRC with a new capability developed in Israel that no one else in the world is currently doing," Ballin said.
"The community in Houston and the people of Texas feel a strong connection to the State of Israel and many of them are big supporters of the state and of the Jewish People. It is therefore, our responsibility to help them in their time of need, as friends and professionals who can offer help to our fellow human beings," she continued.
"We are going tonight to help all of the people of Houston, no matter what community you belong to or what your background is, from one 'lone star state' to another, we will be there for you.”