Crisis team training planned

By Dick Mason, The Observer September 18, 2013 09:35 am

Volunteers sought for new community crisis teams 

Crisis situations like the death of a student or a serious accident can result in devastating mental trauma.

Schools and communities in Union County will soon have a new tool to help them cope with such trauma.

The Center for Human Development and the InterMountain Education Service District will soon create two critical incident response teams to help schools and communities in Union County deal with crisis situations.

Members of these crisis teams will provide emotional support, serve as listeners and direct people traumatized by an event to the right professionals. However, they will not be taking the place of mental health professionals.

“This is not therapy. We will be there listening and if a need arises to refer others for help,” said Dwight Dill, mental health director for the CHD.

The teams will consist of people who attend an intensive three-day training session in La Grande.

The critical incident response teams will be modeled after a “Flight Team” the InterMountain ESD already operates for Umatilla and Morrow counties. Members of those teams were called into the La Grande School District last January and February to help students, faculty and staff cope with the loss of a La Grande High School student who committed suicide.

“(The flight team members) were invaluable in helping grieving students deal with the loss of a fellow student,” La Grande School District Superintendent Larry Glaze said.

Glaze said it became apparent that La Grande did not have a cadre of trained individuals who could provide schools the emotional support their students need in a time of crisis. Glaze thus began helping lead an effort to have flight teams created for Union County. 

The instruction at the sessions will be provided by Cheri Lovre, director of the Crisis Management Institute of Salem. Lovre provided crisis management services after the school shooting at Thurston High School in Springfield in 1998, in New York City after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and after the shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007.

Individuals being encouraged to attend the training sessions Lovre will lead include school administrators, counselors, psychologists, nurses, teachers, paraprofessionals and the parents of children in local schools.

Mental health professionals, those experienced at working with juveniles, and individuals with churches are also encouraged to attend. Those attending should be ready for an intense three days.

“They need to be prepared to be very focused. This will not be light subject matter,” Dill said. 

Dill hopes that training sessions will draw close to 100 people. Following the training, members of the teams will be selected. Not everyone who attends the three-day training session will be chosen as a team member.

“Just because you attend the training doesn’t mean you will be part of a team,” Dill said.

Individuals who will be chosen include those who know what their place on a crisis team should be. 

“We need people who understand their role and the process,” Dill said

Those to be selected will include individuals who demonstrate an ability to be passionate for others but also can remain emotionally detached from a traumatic situation.

“You do not need to be emotionless, but you cannot be so emotional that you are ineffective,” said La Grande High School Counselor Teresa Dowdy, who is helping create the critical incident teams. 

Team members will not be called upon to respond to situations that affect them directly. For example, if a student at a local school dies, teachers at the school who are critical incident team members will not be called for assistance.

“They will be told, ‘You are too close to the situation.’ We would not want affected staff to be a part of the response team,” Dowdy said. 

Team members cannot be those who tend to become focused on asking why a traumatic event happened. They will be there to support people, not assess the situation, Dowdy said.

If you’re interested

What: Free three-day training session to create two critical incident response  teams to help schools and communities in Union County deal with crisis situations

When: Oct. 7-9

Time: 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day

Where: Presbyterian Friendship Center, 1308 Washington Ave.

To register: People are encouraged to register soon for the training sessions because there is a limit of about 100 people. To register or for additional information, call Dwight Dill at 541-962-8845 or Teresa Dowdy at 541-663-3307.

Of note: Meals will be provided at no charge 

Contact Dick Mason at 541-786-5386 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Follow Dick on Twitter @lgoMason.