Vermonters Prepare To Mark Irene Anniversary

07/23/12 7:34AM By Nancy Eve Cohen
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AP/Toby Talbot
Gov. Peter Shumlin hugs April Corliss after presenting her the first "I Am Vermont Strong" license plate as her husband, Bernie, looks on.

As August  approaches some communities are planning events to mark the one-year anniversary of the flood. But the response for individuals varies from person to person.

Psychologist Cath Burns provides clinical support to Starting Over Strong, which offers free, short-term counseling to Vermonters affected by Irene. Burns says the emotional recovery from the flood is a self-paced process, different for everyone

"There are some people that are truly still struggling," Burns said, "that are really having a hard time navigating their way through their recovery.  And for them, we're trying to hook them up with longer-term support. There other people who have moved right through it and feel like you know I'm doing just fine."

Just as people go through stages when they're grieving, Burns says there are also stages of recovery after a disaster. She says at first people are charged up, working together with their community and feeling like they can handle it.

"And then its really common for people after that fact to take  a dip," Burns said, "to sort of fall into the stage of feeling like, ‘Oh, will this ever end? This is really harder than I thought it would be.  It doesn't seem we are recovering as quickly as we should.' And then over time they slowly recover.

Therapists and counselors are not reporting an increase in the number of people seeking help because of the upcoming Irene anniversary. But Psychiatrist Kevin Buchanan of the Clara Martin Center says some people are still dealing with persistent stress

"People are still trying to reestablish stable housing, regain their financial strength," said Buchanan. "They may not directly be connecting it to Irene, but they are still dealing with the fallout of Irene."

Many disaster workers say they're getting calls now from Vermonters who have never reached out for help before. Bob Costantino is the  state Director of Disaster Case Management.

"We knew that initially there were people who were reluctant to register for FEMA and chose not  to," Costantino said.  "We also knew that people got through the winter and felt that they were OK.  In some cases they used their own resources to fix their homes as much as they could and are now finding they need additional help."

Constantino said the Long-Term Recovery Committees may be able to provide building materials for people who are repairing their homes or they might be able to mobilize skilled volunteers who can assist with rebuilding.

Costantino says as the anniversary approaches the recovery is not over and people are still in need.

Starting Over Strong has tips for coping with the upcoming anniversary, and other resources.

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