Maui recovery efforts continue, mental health top of mind

Aug 19, 2023, 10:08 PM | Updated: 10:22 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — For many survivors of the Maui wildfires, their path to recovery doesn’t stop at the physical pain and material losses, but processing the mental trauma.

Amber Drake of Utah, moved to Maui several years ago with her brother. Like many, they lost their home and escaped the devastating wildfires in Lahaina, Hawaii.

“(The fire) just kept getting closer and closer, and it was like the next block over, and we’re kind of just frozen sitting on the kitchen floor together consoling (and) huddled together. It’s really scary,” Drake said.

Amber Drake with her brother in Maui. (Courtesy: Amber Drake)

While the physical damage on Maui is evident, Drake wants to make sure mental health remains top of mind as well.

“(Volunteers have) been doing a good job at the shelters and everything. But at this point, I feel like our community needs mental health care,” she said.

National news outlets have been reporting on mental health experts are working round-the-clock at local shelters to help those who are struggling.

David Kenison, a Red Cross volunteer from Utah, told KSL tv he, along with other volunteers, received some mental health training adding that the Red Cross has also been providing additional mental health services.

“These people, some of them are deeply traumatized,” Kenison said. “They’ve seen horrible things, and some of them have lost family members. It is hard.”

Owners of Draper Shaved Ice Stand donates proceeds to Utah Red Cross Maui efforts

The governor of Hawaii has even temporarily waived some state licensing requirements for counseling to help with the need.

Drake is on the board of the local chapter of the National Alliance of Mental Illness. She said she is working on setting up support groups in her community.

“I do know that we’ll come together and heal and rebuild. It’s just going to take a long time.”

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Maui recovery efforts continue, mental health top of mind