Preparation brings peace of mind: Community members receive disaster supply kits & resources

Published 12:11 am Thursday, September 21, 2023

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LAPLACE — The team at Innovative Approaches Counseling Center LLP has seen firsthand how natural disasters impact the wellbeing of the local community.

In honor of National Preparedness Month, Innovative Approaches recently held a Hurricane Preparation and Disaster Kit Giveaway to equip individuals, families, and area businesses with the knowledge and tools needed to effectively respond to and recover from disasters.

Nearly 200 disaster supply kits were distributed by volunteers and community partners on September 9 at Destiny Christian Center in LaPlace. Each kit contained supplies needed for one person to shelter in place, including water, MREs, a warming blanket, first aid supplies, a light stick and document storage bags.  Attendees also had access to on-site mental health assessments and legal resources.

In addition to Innovative Approaches Counseling Center, participating agencies included Entergy, United Front Transportation Services, Southeast Legal Aid, and Forever Care Resource Center. Members of the St. John the Baptist Parish Fire Department signed up more than 30 families for lifesaving smoke detectors during the event.

Student volunteers were present from St. Augustine, Hahnville, Mt. Carmel, Holy Cross and Ascension of Our Lord Catholic School.

Licensed clinical social worker Candice Sorapuru said a majority of attendees were 55 or older, and those living on fixed incomes had the added burden of factoring finances into evacuation plans.

“A large portion of people said they can’t afford to evacuate, but they are scared to experience a hurricane again. Some stayed for Ida and talked about how scary it was for them to experience the winds,” Sorapuru said. “A major hurricane hits South Louisiana every two to four years. As much as we say I don’t know if we can do this again, this is the reality of living in Southeast Louisiana.”

Last week’s distribution is just one way Innovative Approaches Counseling Center seeks to address mental health stressors in the community.

“Preparation brings peace of mind, so we sought out grant funding through the Center for Equitable Disaster Resiliency to provide tangible needs and reduce people’s emotional anxiety about hurricane season,” Sorapuru said.

Dr. Nyoki Cosey-Brown, founder of Innovative Approaches Counseling Center, said community outreach began in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Ida. Using grant funding, Innovative Approaches started a Care Closet program to provide hygiene items, food, clothing to hurricane survivors in the River Parishes.

“It’s very important to us to make sure we not only focus on the mental health aspect of disaster recovery, but also tangible items,” Cosey-Brown said. “We thought it was essential to continue the conversation in St. John Parish because it feels like we are in this space of constantly feeling like we are recovering, especially with people who are still working to repair their homes from Ida. We thought it was important to give knowledge to people so they know what their options here when it comes to fighting insurance companies or questions about living wills.”

Cosey-Brown expects to support more programs centered on emergency preparedness in the future.

“We know it’s an ongoing need. This is a part of our way of life,” she said.

A list of additional preparedness resources from the event can be accessed at Innovative Approaches Counseling Center is celebrating 10 years of serving the community. For more information, call 985-618-3558.