In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Gov. Mitch Daniels sent out a call to action to assist the ravaged Gulfport area.
Clinical staff members from Hamilton Center Inc. answered that call to provide crisis counseling and critical incident debriefing to first responders and to affected citizens.
With t-shirts identifying their team they became known to the locals as "the Blue Shirts."
Dr. Jody Horstman, Outpatient Director of Child & Adolescent Services walked neighborhoods with clinical staff offering mental health services in the form of debriefings and interventions. She also helped man the "Outreach Bus" dispensing medication and aid to victims of the devastated areas.
Horstman reflected, "It was an incredible experience I'll never forget. It's remarkable, that in the midst of all that devastation and loss that people still allow you into their lives."
When asked about the rewards of participating, Dr. Horstman stated, "The experience is all the thanks I need. The reward is in the ability to be there and to help where I was needed."
Vickie Trout, Director of Indianapolis Client Support Services, acted as Clinical Director providing logistics, communication and organizing relief efforts in response to FEMA's request to serve the 3000+ evacuees.
Trout said, "Planning for this huge endeavor was currently in process. Available resources - statewide - were being inventoried.
"The frustration was that many very well meaning groups were out 'doing things' without coordinating with the Red Cross or Salvation Army. Therefore, many resources were deployed to the wrong places.
"Additionally, we had to be very cautious of the public health dangers of moving large groups of people north who had not been decontaminated. We needed to be sure that psychiatric beds and medications were available for people who were relocated and that we were tracking people in order to reunify families."
"In our daily lives, we tend to separate ourselves, during this time of crisis, we integrated everyone's skills into an invincible team while making a lasting impact upon the lives of those struck by this misfortune," said Trout. Of their 5,000 clients, they could only locate about 1,500.
"Pictures on television don't begin to illustrate the sights," Trout said. "One group of mental health professionals saw 1,207 people in one day!"
Jody Morrison, Access Supervisor assisted First Responder teams and worked with community mental health centers assisting therapists and case managers.
"We'll never return to Biloxi without having a bond with the residents," Morrison said. "People were so appreciative. As Hoosiers, we should all be proud and take comfort in knowing the Gulfport residents were truly impressed with the compassion the State of Indiana offered during a time of incredible need."
Hamilton Center, Inc. is a regional behavioral health system in central and west central Indiana. The organization offers a broad array of services during one's entire life cycle -- birth through older adulthood. Offices are located in Clay, Greene, Hendricks, Marion, Owen, Parke, Putnam, Sullivan, Vermillion and Vigo counties.