Community unites to support crash victims – Times News Online

Published on April 02, 2022 at 08:07

One of Emergency Management Coordinator Jon Matz’s first calls after Monday’s accident was to Schuylkill United Way.

Executive Director Kelly K. Malone was already networking to help victims of the accident.

“We were aware of the accident,” she said. “We received a call from Joe Bessette of Wegman’s and a member of the Centraide board of directors and former president.

“Our next call was from John Matz. United Way is a member of Community Organizations Active in Disasters,” Malone said.

The Berks County Red Cross was also called to action.

“We became a team,” Malone said. “As a community, we have come together to fight against the good, the bad and the ugly.”

United Way has a community service fund to secure housing for those stranded and partnered with the Red Cross to make sure people were comfortable.

His organization also had a car rental company in Hazleton drive one to a man in distress.

“Just by having connections and getting people to stop and listen,” organizations were able to help, she said.

Malone said the United Way will help those who come to Schuylkill County identify the remains of loved ones.

“It’s a community of unity. And it worked,” she said. “This is what we do. One of the reasons I’m lucky to be here and do what I do. We are a community that cares about each other.

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This compassion does not stop with the victims of the accident and their families.

First responders aren’t just putting their bodies at risk, they’re also putting their mental health at risk.

“It’s the mental part – am I doing my best? It’s what happens after the calls. Am I going to go home and close my eyes and think ‘this could have been my family?” Zangari said. “These thoughts and visions never go away.

Mike M. Mistishen, operations/EMS manager for Good Will Fire Company and Minersville EMS is also concerned.

“I worry about the mental health of our suppliers. They must have witnessed things the average person would never see in their life,” he said.

This is where CISM – Critical Incident Stress Management comes in.

“The CISM had a program on Wednesday and another on Thursday. This program was implemented immediately. After the deaths, we knew we had to,” said Wanda Keener, co-coordinator of the CISM regional team based in Orefield.

The program helps first responders through traumatic incidents.

CISM usually meets with first responders within 24 hours to “help them process what happened. The process, called diffusion, is “essentially a chat and reminds them to take care of themselves, to sleep, to eat healthy, to take time for themselves, not to overindulge,” Keener said.

“Sometimes you get tired and forget to take care of yourself,” she said.

“You have the right to have reactions to something like this, even if you’ve seen things like this before,” she said.

The next step is the debriefing. It’s a bit more in-depth, we talk about all the emotional things that have happened since the incident,” she said.

CISM can speak with speakers in groups or one-on-one.

Keener said the first responders to watch after a devastating incident like the I-81 crash include any particular changes in someone: trouble sleeping, depression, or simply not acting on their own. Flashbacks and recurring thoughts are also signs that the person may need help.

“I heard ‘every time I close my eyes I see it over and over again’?” she says.

Keener said CISM workers, while trained, are not necessarily mental health professionals.

“If we’re not able to help people go through this process, we give referrals,” she said.

Matz said CISM is organized through the Eastern EMS Council. “They provide an opportunity to listen and be heard. It is a very valuable resource to have.

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