Deschutes County Behavioral Health is offering immediate support for those affected by this weekend’s shooting in Bend. One-on-one and small group support is available at Pilot Butte Middle School in Bend.
Services are available in English and Spanish. Melissa Lopez is a care coordinator with Deschutes County Behavioral Health Intensive Youth Services. Nick Chamberlain is a behavioral health specialist with Deschutes County. They join us with more on why it’s important to receive immediate support after a traumatic event.
Note: The following transcript was created by a computer and edited by a volunteer.
Dave Miller: This is Think Out Loud on OPB. I’m Dave Miller. We start today in Bend. It has been four days now since a gunman there killed two people at a shopping center before taking his own life. In response, Deschutes County has been offering free counseling for people who have been affected by the shooting. Both one-on-one and small group help are available this week in English and Spanish in the afternoons and early evenings at Pilot Butte Middle school. Melissa Lopez is a care coordinator with the county’s behavioral health intensive youth services. Nick Chamberlain is a behavioral health specialist for the county. They both join us to talk about the support that they are providing. Thanks very much for joining us.
Melissa Lopez: Thanks for inviting us.
Nick Chamberlain: Thank you.
Miller: Melissa Lopez first, can you explain what exactly is available to people in Bend or in the county as a whole right now?
Lopez: We are, like you mentioned, at Pilot Butte Middle School offering services to support our community after this tragic event. We are doing this by offering a space for all to come. We have resources in English and Spanish. We have one-on-one support, we have some group supports as well and we’ve been looking at some additional services after and offering them things such as connecting with victims advocates for further support as they go along this process of healing.
Miller: Nick Chamberlain, how important is it to provide this kind of support early on after trauma?
Chamberlain: I think it’s absolutely monumental in the process of healing and positive change in the wake of something like this. Within the field, we find that the sooner people have an opportunity to process, connect with others, the less likely that they’ll be carrying around and struggling with mental health phenomena later down the road. This can be anxiety, lack of sleep or other difficulties. So really having that safe space with trained professionals who really care about the community, it just can’t be highly regarded enough.
Miller: Melissa Lopez, this support plan at the school, it seems to have come together pretty quickly. Had you planned in advance for a response like this to a mass shooting?
Lopez: Well we are, there are quite a few of us at the county that are CISM trained, which is Critical Incident Stress Management and we currently are using a SAFER model, which stands for stabilization, acknowledge, facilitate encourage and resources, and again we are offering that in English and Spanish.
Miller: But am I right in assuming that you basically, you were prepared for this, the idea is that something terrible and shooting in particular could happen at any time, anywhere, right now and once it does happen, once it happened in Bend, you could just go forward with a pre-existing plan?
Lopez: Well, we could never plan for this, but I feel we were definitely boots on the ground right away. We put this together within the early morning, Monday morning and we had put it out on social media and utilized a lot of our community members to help us get out the word that we were there. And we saw it right away when we opened our doors, the community was ready for us. And so we, we definitely, boots to the ground, and hit the ground running to support our community.
Miller: So Nick Chamberlain, people have been showing up to get the services you’re providing?
Chamberlain: Yeah, we’ve had a decent turnout, I believe a couple of days ago we facilitated, care and just connection with about 45 individuals from various demographics. It’s pretty remarkable to have the capacity to, to share the space with professionals who are here to engage with the community in meaningful ways and as stated before, sometimes this is on an individual level, sometimes it’s couples, where it can be two individuals or even group processing has been happening. So, more importantly than anything, I think so much of it is just about having the space and the people there who can care and hold on to our community while we all kind of go through this.
Miller: Melissa Lopez, how did you all choose this particular middle school as the site?
Lopez: I think it was a central location that was available to us. It’s close to the location, so that anybody in the neighborhood of where this incident happened had easier access to the location and I think it was a good choice. It’s very accessible.
Miller: I didn’t see the phrase ‘mental health’ in particular in the descriptions of the services you’re offering. Is that intentional?
Lopez: I think the services are open to everyone, and we would not want to create that as a barrier to someone thinking that it’s to sign up for services. I think it’s really important to remember that we just want to support the community. There’s no sign in sheet when you come in, there’s no follow up if they don’t want that additional support afterwards, so it’s really just about supporting the community in whatever capacity we can.
Miller: Is that partly about the stigma that still exists when people talk about mental health or mental health services?
Lopez: My trusty sidekick, Nick, would you like to take that?
Chamberlain: Yeah, I mean, that’s definitely a good point. It is something that we see, it is something that we deal with, right? And so kind of by an outreach, just kind of allowing the community to feel like it doesn’t have to be this formal application process or this long drawn out calling and keeping tabs on individuals, right? We just want the open, welcoming arms to allow people to come in. Unfortunately, within certain individuals, there is a stigma with mental health and all that is, is part of what we do and deal with with clients. We definitely want to be approachable and allow those that we’re able to serve in this time to feel welcome.
Miller: Am I right, Nick Chamberlain, that you’ve been seeing your own clients during the day, as just a part of your regular work and then doing this extra work in the afternoons and into the evening?
Chamberlain: Yeah, that’s correct. Most, most professionals here are holding a healthy caseload and in that, I think it says a lot about the individuals who are professionally serving communities, based on their caseload, but also take the time to understand the importance of these additional services and this is kind of where we are right now. Deschutes County has been extremely supportive in their employers about understanding that we can flex time a little bit, so maybe it’s coming in an hour later or taking off an hour early, if we do decide to engage in these additional supports. But yes, it’s, many of these people who are stepping up to support the community are working a normal caseload through the day and then going over there in the early afternoon, evening time to continue doing what they do.
Miller: Why are you doing this? I mean, what’s driving you?
Chamberlain: I do this because I love the idea of connection within the wake of, of something that is not really being able to plan for. I mean, I think everybody does this for different reasons. I like the idea of working with a team of people that do what they do professionally, but endorse it personally. I love connecting with others and being able to provide safe space, connection and hopefully offer a little bit of healing. That is meaningful to me and if that’s something that I can share with my community and with other Deschutes County employees, then I’m absolutely happy to do that.
Miller: If you’re just tuning in, we’re talking right now about the free services that are available right now in Deschutes County, following the shooting there on Sunday. Residents can access them at Pilot Butte Middle School today and tomorrow from 3 to 7 p.m. We’re talking with Nick Chamberlain, Behavioral Health Specialist with Deschutes County and Melissa Lopez, who is a care coordinator for the county’s behavioral health intensive youth services. Melissa Lopez, as you noted, this is at the Pilot Butte Middle School because it’s a central location and it’s easy enough for many people to get to. Are young people, are students, whether from that school or or from other areas, are they coming in by themselves or with caregivers?
Lopez: We are seeing a range of ages from young to old and I think that’s it’s really important for us to make note of as well, is anyone who is being affected by this, which is the whole community, in a whole, can come and get these services. So we are open to all and we are seeing a variety of different people, yes.
Miller: You noted that these are bilingual services in English and in Spanish. My understanding is that you yourself are a bilingual provider. Have native Spanish speakers, have been coming in seeking help?
Lopez: Yes, we have seen some Spanish families and so it’s a pleasure of mine to be able to make sure that they have the resources they need in Spanish. It’s a pride of the county to make sure that we are supporting our Latino families, yes.
Miller: How have you been gauging how helpful these services have been for people who are coming in. What’s your own metric?
Chamberlain: I don’t know that there is a formal metric. I think the best that we can do is provide the resources as a whole. One thing that we have been doing is allowing and inviting individuals who might feel that they need continued support, in whatever capacity that looks like, be it individual counseling services, connecting with a group or maybe, specified applications that kind of deal with traumatic incidents like this. We are inviting them to leave their information as well as connecting them with any sort of resources that we can continue to provide for them. We currently are just kind of tracking it by noting how many individuals are coming in but other than that, like I said before, I think just being available and offering, kind of bridging the gap, between the community and accessing the resources that they need is really all that we’re trying to do.
Miller: It’s possible that I just haven’t been aware of services like this and that they have been available for a while, but I’m curious if, say 10 years ago, if you think these kinds of services would have stood up in this way so quickly? I mean Melissa Lopez, are we, are we in the middle of a change in the way a county, in this case Deschutes County, responds to a traumatic event in the community?
Lopez: We’re always changing and always growing and improving. I think I’ve worked for the county for three years and I’ve seen tremendous growth in how we approach multiple situations, so what I can say is I see a lot of growth and I think that as we go through these traumatic incidents, we are learning from these and learning how to go into them in fast action to support the community.
Miller: Nick Chamberlain. It’s very possible that even with your getting the word out about these services, that some people who are suffering in a variety of ways right now, won’t go to this middle school and to seek help in this particular way. What advice do you have for people in Deschutes County in general right now?
Chamberlain: I guess the only piece of advice that I would feel comfortable offering is that there are a lot of professionals who work for Deschutes County that are passionate about what they do. They have the capacity, empathy and professional development and skills to provide meaningful services. And if at any point in time, individuals are feeling like they could use some support or need some help, that we will be there for them.
Miller: Nick Chamberlain and Melissa Lopez, thanks very much for joining us.
Chamberlain: Thank you.
Lopez: Thank you.
Miller: Melissa Lopez is a care coordinator with the Deschutes County Behavioral Health Intensive Youth Services, and Nick Chamberlain is a Behavioral Health Specialist with Deschutes County. Coming up after a short break, we’re going to talk about the so-called “unwritten rules” of higher education or workplaces and the challenges that they can present for first generation students and people who don’t have a lot of prior professional experience.
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