A behavioral health team deployed to Hawaii this week to provide services to those impacted by recent wildfires, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The team is made up of 25 public health service officers from the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and includes clinical psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and nurse practitioners.
“Tragedies like the Maui wildfires have a profound human impact on communities,” said Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O’Connell in a news release. “We are committed to doing all we can to assist the people of Hawaii, and we are working with partners on the ground to assess ongoing needs to support recovery efforts.”
The USPHS Commissioned Corps team will bolster response efforts from the state, Maui County, Lahaina Health Center, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response.
On Wednesday, officers began work at the Lahaina Health Center by assisting with behavioral health assessments and referrals for adults, children, and families, according to the release.
They will also provide behavioral health services to families as they return to their homes.
“When natural disasters occur and climate-related hazards are exacerbated by weather, Public Health Services officers are trained and ready to respond to humanitarian missions and public health crises,” said Adm Rachel Levine, HHS Assistant Secretary for Health in the release. “Residents of Hawaii deserve to have a safe place to live and to have their land protected. While our officers cannot replace what was lost, they are committed to making this nation a healthier, safer place to live and giving individuals, who are often in their difficult moments, hope for a better tomorrow.”
Last month, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra declared a public health emergency for Hawaii, which gives providers greater flexibility in meeting the needs of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.
More information about HHS’ response to the Maui wildfires is available at aspr.hhs.gov/HawaiiWildfires.