Less than 48 hours after responding to a profound crisis, when a mother reportedly killed her four young daughters in their Jerusalem apartment before taking her own life, United Hatzalah’s Trauma and Crisis Response Unit announced on Tuesday that it is dramatically expanding.
The psycho-trauma unit – which opened last May and provides stabilization care for people who have undergone a traumatic experience, or who were at the scene of one – is now setting the stage to incorporate between 150 to 175 new psychological caregivers in the coming year.
After beginning a new training course last week, 30 additional psychologists and social workers will be joining the unit, which the leadership – headed by director Miriam Ballin, Rickie Rabinowitz, and Avi Steinhartz – is hoping to increase by 500%.
“What once started out as a dream, has now become the cutting edge of emergency psychological response,” said Raphael Poch, United Hatzalah’s international spokesman.
“[On Sunday night] eight volunteer responders – all of whom are trained psychologists or social workers – provided psychological stabilization for the father of the children, as well as both sets of grandparents, concerned and traumatized neighbors, and friends of the family.”
According to Poch, the team remained at the scene for several hours after the emergency medical and fire and rescue teams departed.
“When the social workers of the city of Jerusalem arrived sometime after the event, our team was still on site, and working with those affected by the tragic event,” he said.
Also responding to Sunday’s tragedy was Dr. Gary Quinn, a psychiatrist and the director of the Jerusalem EMDR Institute, who is one of the founders and instructors of the nascent psycho-trauma unit.
Quinn, who specializes in crisis intervention, treatment for anxiety and depressive disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder, helped lead the unit during the trying ordeal.
“Upon Dr. Quinn’s arrival, responders, as well as city social workers, deferred to his expertise and proceeded to work together to provide as much relief and stabilization as they could for those who needed it,” said Poch.
“Following the incident, the psycho-trauma team also provided emotional and psychological debriefs for the EMTs, paramedics, and doctors who responded to the call and had to pronounce the death of the mother and her children.”
The Trauma and Crisis Response Unit will also be opening a course for 100 EMTs, who are already active within the organization.
“By undertaking a specialized psycho-trauma enrichment course, these EMTs will be allowed to operate under the auspices of the unit when they treat patients at traumatic scenes,” said Poch. “The EMTs and professionals will join the already existing unit of some 30 volunteers in providing psychological stabilization and treatment in the field at any scene that requires their presence – which can include incidents of crib death, suicide, the sudden death of a family member, severe car accidents, and even terrorist attacks.”
“People need help in coping with the trauma of especially stressful situations,” added Ballin, a family therapist and EMT. “That is where we come in. We help the people on-site and we stabilize them so that they can deal with the situation on hand, all while receiving support by specially trained psychological caregivers.”