- The Washington Times - Monday, April 29, 2002

RICHMOND The state has received a $4.6 million federal grant to continue counseling and other services to Northern Virginians stressed out by the terrorist attack on the Pentagon and by the anthrax scare.
The grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency extends the Community Resilience Project set up by the state Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services and public mental health agencies in Northern Virginia.
"Even months after the terrorist attacks, Northern Virginians may experience stress responses such as sleep disturbances, difficulty concentrating, preoccupation with the event, fear, anxiety, guilt, depression or social withdrawal," said Dr. James S. Reinhard, state mental health commissioner.
He said that such problems "are normal reactions to an extremely abnormal situation. It is important to discuss these responses with trained professionals."
The state agency will coordinate distribution of the grant money and provide oversight of the program. Community mental health agencies in Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun counties and the city of Alexandria will receive the funds through Dec. 15.
Services offered at no charge to the public include individual, family and group counseling; stress management; grief and loss management; counseling of children; and referral to mental health services.
The Community Resilience Project started the second week of October with a $2.2 million grant from FEMA.
Bill Armistead, the mental health department's disaster coordinator, said people feeling stress, insomnia, irritability or other problems from the attacks don't necessarily have mental illnesses.
The program "lets people know it's OK if they are having some level of problems. It doesn't mean you are mentally ill," Mr. Armistead said.
Another problem is hypervigilance, an abnormal concern about personal safety, said Ruby Brown, a psychologist who directs the Arlington Community Resilience Project. She said the Arlington program has 37 clinicians in the field who have talked with thousands of people in Metro stations, schools, shopping malls, community recreation centers and elsewhere. Sometimes they go door to door, she said.
"Typically we find that people are willing and desire to talk," she said. "We're trying to help people realize they have the resilience to cope."
Mr. Armistead said he is compiling the number of people who have sought counseling or other services since the attacks.
Among the more than 3,000 people killed in the September 11 attacks were 189 at the Pentagon in Arlington 125 in the building and 64 on American Flight 77 that crashed into the building.
Five persons, including two postal workers, died from the inhaled form of anthrax after letters containing anthrax spores were sent to people in the District, Florida and New York in the fall.
Information about the Community Resilience Project can be obtained by calling 703/228-4788 in Arlington County, 703/838-6400 in Alexandria, 703/533-5388 in Fairfax County and 703/771-5100 in Loudoun County.

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