John D. Weaver, LCSW

Many areas of the country need more DMH workers to support their communities with disaster preparedness, response and recovery. The American Psychological Association (APA), the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), the American Psychiatric Association (APA), and the American Counseling Association (ACA) are good first contacts and each one has several smaller affiliates (e.g., regional, district, state, and/or local affiliates). These national organizations all have letters of agreement with ARC to assist in times of disaster. The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (AAMFT) and the North American Association of Christians in Social Work (NACSW) also have letters of agreement with ARC. Other contacts include professional nursing associations (many of them also have letters of agreement with ARC) and the various local professional groups in which psychiatrists are members (e.g., medical societies). Given some lead-time, these groups can use newsletters or fax and phone contacts to help identify interested individuals.

Good targets for recruitment calls, mailings, and/or visits are: crisis intervention or emergency mental health teams; college and university campuses; medical and nursing schools; state run psychiatric hospitals; general hospitals with psychiatric units; free-standing inpatient and residential psychiatric facilities; other private and public mental health centers/clinics; and volunteer centers. Still want more? How about these: rehabilitation centers; nursing homes; schools and special education facilities; civic organizations; prisons and probation/parole offices; home-health agencies; HMOs; insurance companies; pastoral counselors; human service agencies (people serving the general public in nonprofit settings); Veterans' Hospitals and Clinics; Critical Incident teams; and religiously affiliated providers.


1. Target recent retirees and current workers who have had it with bureaucracy, management issues, writing treatment plans, the whole business of managed care, and/or paperwork. Professionals who miss (or will miss) the hands-on experience of helping people (the things we hoped to spend most of our post-graduate time doing) are often frustrated. Many are searching for the kind of respite and renewal a disaster relief experience can offer.

2. Stress that ARC DMH paperwork is minimal.

3. Highlight the travel opportunities, fellowship, and the ARC mission.

4. Point out that all disaster related travel expenses, lodging, and meals  are paid by ARC.

5. Get potential new volunteers talking with experienced disaster workers and/or show them a classic ARC video.  They'll love it.

6. Put out a call for help via local papers, radio, and TV public service announcements and news releases. Repeat the public messages every time there is a major local or national disaster.

7. When the DMH workers go out on a national assignment, publicize their successful experiences in local media and professional newsletters.


Generally, the new people will want to get started. They can generally do that after taking the basic training classes (Introduction to DMH and DMHF Part 1) online and receiving a orientation to their local Disaster Action Team. In times of great need, DMHF Part 2 may be made available quickly by adding a classroom session or connecting people with the online webinar version of the class. Even if the Part 2 class is not immediately available, they can do ride-along observations, cross train,  participate in drills, etc.  

Be careful not to loose the DMH volunteers once you've got them. Try to have a few meetings of the group each year. Use them for continuing education, case studies, mini-training sessions, sharing stories from the field, fellowship, group supervision, and peer support. Include even those members who cannot attend by mailing them the handouts and a short summary of the material presented at meetings they miss.