- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 21, 2002

FROSTBURG, Md. Rural social workers must be better prepared to respond to terrorist attacks, speakers at a national conference said.
The September 11 attacks proved the need for counseling both at the site of a terrorist attack and far away, as emotional shock waves spread, said researcher Barbra L. Torgusen at the National Institute on Human Services in Rural Areas on Thursday.
Miss Torgusen said anecdotal evidence suggests that substance abuse, child abuse and domestic violence have risen in rural communities since September 11. Her research, which is focused on military veterans, also indicates a greater tendency to hoard food, cash, fuel and weapons, she said.
Those findings parallel a study done in the fall by the Rand think tank in Santa Monica, Calif., which concluded that nearly half of American adults had pronounced symptoms of stress from the September 11 attacks.
"The fact is, this is not going to be the last attack," said Miss Torgusen, a doctoral candidate in social work at the University of Alabama. "We need to look to the future and see how it's going to affect us and what we're going to do about it."
Miss Torgusen was among the speakers at the conference, attended by about 100 clinical social workers and academics. It runs through today at Frostburg State University.
In rural areas, "a lot of them feel, 'This won't happen to us; it's not a big deal,' yet others tend to feel it's bound to happen to them," Miss Torgusen said. Social workers must consider how those reactions complicate their clients' emotions and personal relationships, she said.
Sam Conant, a disaster mental-health instructor from Burlington, Vt., said many rural clients have grown more fearful of urban areas since September 11, to the point of being immobilized by the thought of riding a subway or being in a tall building.
Similarly, distrust has grown among rural residents of "those people coming into our state to get away from the cities," he said.
Like Miss Torgusen, Mr. Conant advised rural social workers to get involved in terrorism-response planning in their communities so they can provide services quickly after the next attack.

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