Ohio Receives Wellness Grants After Train Wreck

March 28, 2023 by Dan McCue
Ohio Receives Wellness Grants After Train Wreck
FILE - This photo taken with a drone shows portions of a Norfolk and Southern freight train that derailed Friday night in East Palestine, Ohio, are still on fire at mid-day Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — The state of Ohio received more than $209,000 in wellness and community resilience funding this week, the first in a series of grants awarded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in the wake of last month’s East Palestine train derailment.

The money was awarded under SAMHSA’s emergency response grants program, and the state will continue to receive allotments of grant money from the agency every 90 days for the next year.

The community support comes in the wake of the Feb. 3 freight train derailment in the town of East Palestine during which a fire erupted and the dangerous chemical being transported, vinyl chloride, spilled.

Since the accident, SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline, at 1-800-985-5990, has provided immediate counseling to anyone affected by the train derailment.

Over time, however, it has become clear that community members, including first responders, have experienced a number of symptoms in response to the accident, including difficulty sleeping, nightmares, changes in appetite, difficulty concentrating, changes in energy or activity levels and increases in substance use. 

And that’s where the grants came in.

“Because environmental emergencies impact the entire community, public mental health supports are focused on community-led activities that improve wellness as the community defines their unique needs and goals in recovery,” SAMHSA says on its website.

The grant funding is expected to support the immediate and ongoing behavioral health needs of the community related to the initial incident and subsequent traumatic experiences, to minimize the long-term impacts and foster resilience in the community, and to expand and enhance the capacity of local crisis response systems to ensure adequate and effective intervention in situations of crisis.

“We want the East Palestine community, who we recognize is continuing to face hardships and trauma, to have the resources and supports they need to work through the toll on their mental health,” said Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., HHS assistant secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and the leader of SAMHSA, in a written statement. 

“Trauma can be felt in a number of ways and is personal to each individual. We hope these funds help individuals get the support they need and promote resiliency in the East Palestine community,” she said.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Anyone seeking treatment for mental health or substance use issues as a result of the East Palestine derailment or due to any other cause, should call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357) or visit findtreatment.gov.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and @DanMcCue

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