Principal Chris Myers sought to make mental health counseling available to students in the rural district of Graettinger-Terril for nearly four years. But each time he thought he might be close, money, or lack thereof, got in the way. Myers’ luck changed in July 2020, when Iowa received $50 million in federal funds through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, aka the CARES Act. The act passed in March 2020 as a $2.2 trillion relief package to respond to the economic fallout from COVID-19. Of that $50 million in CARES Act money, $30 million was allocated per capita, at $9.50 per Iowan.
ByDean Russell and Jamie Smith Hopkins / Columbia Journalism Investigations and Center for Public Integrity |
In 2019, flooding hit the small Mills County, Iowa, town of Pacific Junction. Recovery is slow, Mayor Andy Young said in August 2020, a year after the waters rose 7 to 11 feet in nearly all homes. Three generations of his family live in “PJ.” The town will not be the same — and neither will the people. Young expects 125 to 135 families who were flooded will go for buyouts that are being offered.
ByJamie Smith Hopkins / Center for Public Integrity |
We heard from more than 200 disaster survivors and people helping them. Here’s what we learned. The Center for Public Integrity, Columbia Journalism Investigations and our partners in newsrooms around the country, including IowaWatch, have been reporting on this for months. We’ve learned a lot by asking experts: people who’ve lived through disasters and the professionals who study this or provide hands-on help. More than 230 shared their experiences in our detailed survey, and we interviewed dozens of additional people.
About this project: Hidden EpidemicsIowaWatch reported this story as part of a project on disasters and mental health with the Center for Public Integrity, Columbia Journalism Investigations, California Health Report, Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, City Limits, InvestigateWest, The Island Packet, The Lens, The Mendocino Voice, Side Effects and The State. PARKERSBURG, Iowa – For 25 years, disasters beckoned Chris Luhring to help. On Aug. 10, he was called again — to respond to the same kind of devastation he’d endured 12 years earlier – and to provide hope and courage amid the darkness and despair delivered by a savage derecho. Luhring, the city administrator of Parkersburg, prepared for an afternoonmeeting at City Hall Aug.
The Center for Public Integrity and Columbia Journalism Investigations collaborated on this project with newsrooms around the country: IowaWatch, California Health Report, Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, City Limits, InvestigateWest, The Island Packet, The Lens, The Mendocino Voice, Side Effects and The State. We created our survey for disaster survivors and mental-health professionals with guidance and vetting from Sarah Lowe, clinical psychologist and assistant professor at Yale School of Public Health; Elana Newman, professor of psychology at the University of Tulsa and research director for the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University; Gilbert Reyes, clinical psychologist and chair of the American Psychological Association’s trauma psychology division disaster relief committee; and Jonathan Sury, project director for communications and field operations for the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University. HIDDEN EPIDEMICS: Weather disasters drive a mental health crisis RELATED: Iowa’s Parkersburg tornado survivors offer support, hope after derecho turmoil RELATED: How to heal emotional wounds after disaster
No government agency in the United States regularly tracks the psychological outcomes of disasters. And while academic studies may shed light on specific events, the questionnaire was meant to understand experiences from multiple disasters across the country, furthering on-the-ground reporting. It is not a formal, randomized survey.
We’re digging into the stressful toll of wildfires, hurricanes and floods — and now COVID-19 on top of them. We need your help. Every year, weather-related disasters ravage communities across the United States, creating scenes traumatic and, increasingly, familiar. Deadly firestorms throughout the West. Historic floods in the Farm Belt. Catastrophic hurricanes with record rains in the South and along the East Coast.
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Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds says enough state money will exist to pay for projects she proposed last week during her annual Condition of the State address. IowaWatch interviewed her and responding Democrats for this podcast report.