H.O.P.E. after the Thomas Fire

by Jennifer Tipton

Ventura County Behavioral Health has collaborated with a long-term community mental health team called California HOPE of Ventura County, a federally funded and trained community-based counseling program created to support the community after the Thomas Fire.

H.O.P.E. is an acronym for: Helping – Outreach – Possibilities – Empowerment.

The long-term effects of a disaster on mental health come in many stages, the difficult reactions one may experience can occur months after the initial disaster. Individuals that may initially appear unaffected, might later become overwhelmed and unable to effectively cope.

Reactions to a disaster such as the Thomas Fire are emotional, behavioral, cognitive and psychological and do not manifest in any certain order at any specific time.

Family and friends can help to identify these individuals and implement active listening and validation as effective ways to help survivors cope with their loss.

California HOPE services are free and confidential with the goal of implementing effective coping skills.

Services include: Individual and group counseling for

survivors, family and friends / Assessment and referrals /

Distribution of educational materials.

Counseling goals include: Helping disaster survivors understand their current situation and reactions / Reducing stress and providing emotional support / Assisting survivors in creating a wellness and recovery plan / Promoting the use or development of coping strategies and personal resilience / Providing friends and family members with education to support those affected / Connecting survivors to other resources.

Several support groups began mid-June in Ventura, Ojai, Santa Paula and Fillmore with more anticipated. The program is long term, just as the recovery process is long term.

We at the Ventura Breeze encourage those affected by the Thomas Fire to reach out to these services as needed.

If you or someone you know needs support, please contact HOPE of Ventura County at (805) 833-9495 or hopeventuracounty@gmail.com .

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