Report Highlights Two Coastal Challenge Projects

Posted on October 3, 2018
Marketing and Communications

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently released its Gulf Research Program Annual Report 2017, which details projects funded from a $500 million endowment created from the settlements resulting from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. Researchers at the University of South Alabama are supporting two of the projects, both capacity-building grants that “focus on helping community networks make more effective use of science to serve community needs and address coastal challenges.”

Dr. Jennifer Langhinrichsen-Rohling, professor of psychology and executive director of USA’s Gulf Coast Behavioral Health and Resiliency Center, has partnered with Lifelines Counseling Services on “Sustainable Solutions During Disaster.” The project was designed to provide disaster-related trauma and mental health training for community members, mental health professionals and social service providers.

More than 3,000 people were trained during the first year, exceeding the initial project goal of 500. On campus, this funding also supported the creation of the USA Disaster and Trauma Alliance, which used the funding to provide 19 USA faculty and staff with the opportunity to earn a certificate from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.

Grant support allowed faculty and staff associated with the clinical and counseling psychology doctoral program to receive extensive training in trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy for children. Post-training, the USA Psychology Clinic created a trauma-focused specialty clinic, using the intensive trainings and certifications to develop a pipeline of students who have the qualifications to treat trauma reactions in children and adolescents.

The second year of the grant will see more community trainings as well as specialty training in complex trauma-delivered to select mental health professionals. Lifelines Counseling Services will work to engage a cross-community network of disaster-trained volunteers. The goal is to create a sustainable infrastructure of educated and trained professionals who are prepared to treat disaster-related trauma, whether it results from a hurricane, flooding or an oil spill. Area professionals will also be able to provide evidence-based services to children, adolescents and adults who have long-lasting and adverse effects from experiencing a broad variety of traumatic effects, including interpersonal violence or abuse and sexual assault.

At Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Lee Yokel serves as the state coordinator for the project “Building Industry Engagement within the Gulf of Mexico Alliance to Increase Impacts to Regional Efforts.” The project, managed by the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, aims to help the Alliance expand its reach by targeting audiences they’re not currently engaged with. One such sector is the tourism industry. The goal is a new dialogue directed at sharing science-based knowledge, tools and experience. Early engagement activities included a “fireside chat” held in February with Weeks Bay Reserve and regional tourism representatives.

Through this engagement, the Alliance is investing in the use of targeted social media to keep tourists better informed about health hazards related to poor water quality. Yokel said that the types of engagement and the issues focused on can vary depending on the priorities for an organization in a given area. The end product is the relationship that results when organizations and industries have a sustained conversation about issues specific to their region. This exchange could improve resource management, encourage more science-based solutions to coastal challenges and result in more accessible data available to more users.

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