Crisis Support Team forms to help Routt County community after tragedies | SteamboatToday.com

Crisis Support Team forms to help Routt County community after tragedies

The Routt County Community Crisis Support Team was founded by Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue firefighter Marnie Smith. (Photo by John F. Russell)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When tragedy strikes, a group of community members is now ready to offer support to witnesses who are having a hard time dealing with what they have seen or heard.

The Routt County Community Crisis Support Team was founded by Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue firefighter Marnie Smith, who then teamed up with counselors Molly Lotz and Angela Melzer.

Emergency responders historically have used debriefings after critical incidents to help decompress, and the new organization now offers a similar process for free to community groups, including schools, businesses, churches and more.

For more

Those in need of crisis response services can visit routtcountycrisissupport.org.

A critical event could be a death, a suicide, an incident involving children, the recovery of a body or even witnessing CPR.

"I just started it because I felt there was a need for first responders but also the community that are affected by critical incidents and trauma," Smith said. "I was just surprised that there wasn't a venue for community members."

For first responders, Routt County Search and Rescue volunteer Kristia Check-Hill said debriefing after a critical incident is valuable to help first responders talk about any residual feelings.

"I don't think people know where to turn when something happens,” Check-Hill said. “Sometimes, we all want to put on that big, brave front, but sometimes, you just need someone besides a spouse, team member or coworker. You need someone on the outside to talk to."

To help pay for the professionals who counsel people, the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, with help from the Tour de Steamboat cycling event, awarded a $6,000 grant to the Community Crisis Support Team. It was one of the largest grants the Community Foundation awarded this year.

"While our community is a beautiful place to vacation for many, and we all feel lucky to call the Yampa Valley home, Steamboat is not immune to tragedies,” Community Foundation community impact manager Emily Beyer said. “Because we are a close-knit community, when suicides or other tragic deaths take place, it impacts a large number of community members.”

The Community Crisis Support Team already has assisted with two structured group debriefings, which last about one to three hours and are done 24 to 72 hours after a critical incident.

"If there isn't some sort of follow-up, post-traumatic stress can result in post-traumatic stress disorder,” Smith said.

The professionals who run the debriefings include school counselors, UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center crisis workers and emergency department nurses.

"It's an amazing group of people that have stepped up and wanted to be a part of the team," Smith said.

Lotz, one of the team members, is a counselor at North Routt Community Charter School and also works at the hospital.

"We felt we needed to bring the critical incident briefing model to the community," she said. "The feedback has been great, and the response had been super supportive."

Those in need of crisis response services can visit routtcountycrisissupport.org.

"They can reach out to us, and we will come free of charge to provide these services," Lotz said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland.

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