Northern California

Mental Health Services Available for North Bay Residents Affected by Wildfires

As fires continue to ravage Northern California, mental health services are available for people grieving - or fearing - the loss of their homes and loved ones, county officials said.

"We know this is a time when people are experiencing trauma in their lives," said Jennifer Larocque, a spokeswoman for Sonoma County said. "They have been evacuated, they may have lost their loved ones, they are looking for their friends. We want to make sure we are there for them in any way they need."

With that in mind, Larocque said mental health services are available at the county's four shelters. The shelters are as follows: Sonoma-Marin County Fairgrounds, 1350 Fairgrounds Drive, Petaluma;

Sonoma County Fairgrounds, 1350 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa; Elsie Allen High School, 599 Bellevue Ave., Santa Rosa; and Santa Rosa Veterans Building, 1351 Maple Ave., Santa Rosa.

Two of Solano County's shelters have mental health clinicians, according to the county's Office of Emergency Services. These shelters are at Solano Community College, 4000 Suisun Valley Road, in Fairfield, and Allan Witt Park, 1741 W Texas St., also in Fairfield.

"We have had mental clinicians out at the (shelters) and other community organizations have been there as well," said Sandra Sinz, Solano County's mental health director. "Kaiser has sent clinicians there as well," she said.

Sinz said people can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.

"We get some data from them, and they have been receiving more calls from our area," Sinz said. She said a person doesn't have to be suicidal to call the line.

"It goes through a switchboard and then connects you to a local California crisis line," Sinz said.

As with the other two counties, mental health services are available at Napa County's three shelters, Cara Wooledge, a health education specialist with Napa County, said today.

The shelters are at Napa Valley College, 2277 Napa-Vallejo Highway in Napa; the Crosswalk Church, 2590 First St., Napa; and the American Canyon High School, 3000 Newell Drive, American Canyon.

"We have bilingual staff there who are available to talk to folks if they need support," Wooledge said.

The health education specialist had another resource: The national Disaster Distress Helpline.

"It's a great resource, available 24/7," Wooledge said. "Anyone across the U.S. can call and talk to a trained mental health counselor. We're trying to share this not only with people affected directly by (the fires) at the shelter, but people at home if they have been affected."

The number is 1-800-985-5990, and it's also possible to communicate via text, she said. To do so, people should text one word with no spaces, talkwithus, to 66746. To do so in Spanish, text one word, hablanos, to 66746.

Services specifically for veterans are also available in Napa County.

The Vet Center, a subsidiary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, has deployed personnel to the wildfire evacuation center at Napa Valley College from Concord and Fairfield to provide mental health services and paperwork assistance for any displaced veterans.

The mental health personnel will be at the shelter today and Saturday.

They were at the shelter Thursday with a trailer set up for three separate counseling sessions to be conducted simultaneously.

"Say you're having a panic attack," readjustment counselor Lori Shepherd said. "You come in here and have a counseling session."

Shepherd said the smoke, smells and sight of burnt buildings can be stressful for veterans who served in Iraq, Afghanistan or other war zones.

Mental health services are available at Napa Valley College for any veterans who have been displaced by the North Bay wildfires and are in need of assistance. They can be reached at (925) 433-3407.

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