Flood counselors funded by feds 

Most of us have heard about the millions of federal dollars that have come to Colorado since the September floods. The money has gone to fix roads, help home and business owners, and clean up debris.

But the federal government is also investing in stabilizing victims' emotions. Ever since the floods, teams of counselors have been going door-to-door in hard-hit areas, attending community meetings, and contacting churches, to make sure victims know their resources and know how to get in touch with a mental health worker.

John Cooke, program manager for the El Paso County flood recovery team, says the local outfit is organized by AspenPointe and has been working since last fall. The team will also do outreach in Fremont County in the future.

One of the local counselors, James Garofalo, says some people need one-on-one help from his team. He recalls one person who explained having witnessed one of the two El Paso County flood deaths in 2013. Business owners have told him how much they've struggled financially since the floods. Whether the problem is money-related or emotional, he says, "[I tell them] it's not wrong or embarrassing or anything to seek help."

Counselors have plenty of time left to spread their help. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration announced recently that they'll keep the crisis counseling going for nine months, with a $4 million grant to the state Department of Health and the Environment. While the program aims to help those affected by the September 2013 floods, local program managers say they're reaching out to anyone who was affected last year. And if new victims surface over the summer, they'll also reach out to them.

Since the September disaster, crisis counselors have reached 8,963 El Paso County residents, Cooke says; of those, 1,067 were contacted in person.


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