Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017, becoming the most devastating storm to impact the island in almost a century. Natural disasters have been shown to adversely impact children’s emotional, behavioral, and academic functioning and schools provide an ideal setting in which to implement wide-reaching interventions that can bolster resiliency and promote psychological recovery. Yet there is limited-to-non existent literature describing the actual implementation process of an evidence-based, trauma-informed intervention model within a school system after a natural disaster. This paper describes the process by which our team established a partnership with the Puerto Rico Department of Education (PR-DE) to implement the Puerto Rico Outreach Model in Schools-Esperanza (PROMISE), beginning shortly after Hurricane Maria made landfall. We describe our multi-phase, trauma-focused intervention model implemented with Puerto Rico school personnel using a Community Based Participatory Approach. PROMISE included 3 phases: 1) Phase 1 (three weeks post-hurricane): Providing Psychological First Aid training for school teachers and staff to meet the needs of all students affected by the hurricane through classroom-based intervention; 2) Phase 2 (six months post-hurricane): Providing Skills for Psychological Recovery training for school social workers and psychologists to meet the needs of students with sub-clinical trauma-related concerns and; 3) Phase 3 (one year post- hurricane): Providing Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy training for school psychologists to address higher level and unremitting trauma-related symptoms in students. We describe the process by which key partnerships were established, the step-by-step implementation process of each phase, lessons learned from the field, and implications for practice, training, policy, and future research.
Key Take Away Points
- Natural disasters adversely impact children’s emotional, behavioral, and academic functioning. Schools provide an ideal setting in which to implement wide-reaching interventions that can bolster resiliency and promote psychological recovery after a disaster.
- A Community Based Participatory Approach, in which key stakeholders offer their concerns, needs, ideas, and help co-design a project together with the implementing team, offers a fruitful and respectful approach to post-disaster intervention planning.
- Implementation of a multi-phase, trauma-focused intervention model within the school system of Puerto Rico post hurricane Maria was feasible and acceptable. The lessons learned outlined in the current paper can help inform future post-disaster intervention efforts.
Orengo-Aguayo, Rosaura; Stewart, Regan W.; de Arellano, Michael A.; Pastrana, Freddie A.; Villalobos, Bianca T.; Martínez-González, Karen G.; Suárez-Kindy, Joy Lynn; and Brymer, Melissa (2019) "Implementation of a Multi-Phase, Trauma-Focused Intervention Model Post-Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico: Lessons Learned from the Field Using a Community Based Participatory Approach," Journal of Family Strengths: Vol. 19: Iss. 1, Article 7. Available at: https://digitalcommons.library.tmc.edu/jfs/vol19/iss1/7
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Journal of Family Strengths