Monday, July 15, 2024

Health Watch: July 2023 flood impacts 1 year later

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – On this week’s Health Watch, we’re taking a special look at health care for flood victims.

“We’re getting calls for the first time ever from some folks, other folks are really feeling like they didn’t get enough help, or they didn’t know where to go for help, so yeah, we’re getting a lot of calls from folks,” said Heather Slayton from Washington County Mental Health Services.

Slayton says one year later, the need for flood-related mental and physical health care remains. “There are absolutely still people struggling and still people looking for help,” she said.

Slayton says the flooding anniversary is a trigger to those who may have developed a form of post-traumatic stress disorder from the event.

Chief Recovery Officer Doug Farnham says the consistent flooding that continued into December left many Vermonters in a lasting state of stress. Some folks experiencing this persistent strife have turned to drugs and alcohol for comfort.

“The compounding effect of the uncertainty and the inability to respond definitely affected people pretty significantly,” said Farnham.

In addition to mental health problems, both Farnham and Slayton say folks are struggling with allergies from continuous mold and dust exposure from flood damage.

“Mold remediation is very complicated. There’s testing involved. And I think those aspects of recovery have been a challenge for us to work through,” said Farnham.

As Vermonters still struggle to physically and mentally heal from last year’s flood, the one-year anniversary also marks the beginning of the sundown for some FEMA-funded programs, including S.O.S. Vermont, a disaster mental health recovery program.

“Even though it ends, the FEMA funding ends, we don’t ever end, you can always call us at Washington County Mental Health,” said Slayton.

While funding may be running out for some programs meant to help people traumatized by the flood, there are still physical and mental health programs that will continue running if you do need that help.

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