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Project Rebound helps tornado victims

Heather Lightsey

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Since an EF-4 tornado tore through Tuscaloosa in late April, many different organizations devoted to mental health and counseling have brought chapters to the Tuscaloosa community.

One such organization, called Project Rebound, has set up a chapter of its FEMA-funded organization at the University; the first team that is specific to a university committee.

Project Rebound is a crisis counselor program that FEMA created as a response to disasters, both man-created and natural. Chapters of the organization have been initiated after natural disasters such as Hurricanes Ivan, Katrina, and Rita, as well as the Gulf Coast Deep Water Horizon oil spill.

The University’s Project Rebound, an extension of the larger project offered within the state of Alabama, launched in response to the April 27 tornadoes.

Melanie Tucker, faculty sponsor of Project Rebound UA, said after the tornado, the College of Community Health Sciences was contacted by the Alabama Department of Mental Health to gauge their interest and need for crisis counseling on campus.

“We were definitely interested and decided to partner with ADMH in writing a grant to begin Project Rebound UA,” Tucker said. “Project Rebound UA represents the first time that FEMA has provided such services on a university campus, thus making this a model program for implementing FEMA services on a college or university campus.”

The team currently has 19 graduate students on staff as crisis counselors from all different backgrounds and areas of study. These counselors have been trained by FEMA to respond to crises, both on an individual level and to groups of people.

Michelle Tanner, one of the crisis counselors, said Project Rebound wants to provide help with emotional issues and personal problems that were a result of the tornado.

“We are an outreach program, meaning that counselors go in to the community and start conversations with individuals and gauge their need for further assistance, whether it be community services, mental health assistance, or medical treatment,” Tanner said. “You’ll see counselors at the Ferg, the libraries, on the Quad, in dining facilities and other places asking students how they are coping and offering them a chance to talk about what they’re going through.”

Tanner, a marriage and family therapy graduate student, said she was attracted to Project Rebound because of its unique approach to counseling.

“I see clients at the Capstone Family Therapy clinic, and saw what emotional and physical damage the tornado caused,” Tanner said. “People feel violated, lost, angry, depressed and a million other things. Project Rebound counselors take the initial step to talk to people and offer as little or as much help as they need. It’s really amazing.”

Shani Collins, another crisis counselor from Project Rebound, wanted to become part of Project Rebound because of her strong interest in mental health research.

“As a social work graduate student, our in-class discussions often center on the role of social workers in mental health settings,” Collins said. “The position seemed to be an ideal fit for me based on my social work background, my interest in mental health, and my desire to help others.

“I was not personally affected by the tornado, but as a student at the University of Alabama and a resident of Tuscaloosa, I felt the impact nonetheless,” she said.

For more information about Project Rebound UA, please call 205-348-0025.

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Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894
Project Rebound helps tornado victims