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RI Disaster Behavioral Health Response Team

The Rhode Island Disaster Behavioral Health Response Team (DBHRT) is comprised of trained disaster behavioral health volunteers who may be deployed to provide an organized, supportive response to individual victims, family members, survivors and other responders affected by critical incidents or disasters. This cadre may be activated to work in conjunction with traditionally identified first responders and others within the incident command structure. 

Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and other critical incidents, as well as the growing research on the impacts of these events, have highlighted that behavioral health capabilities are a necessary component of effective disaster response. Disaster behavioral health is the provision of mental health, substance abuse, and stress management services to those impacted by traumatic events.

DBHRT members may be deployed to settings such as emergency shelters, disaster sites, schools or medical facilities. They may also engage in outreach and educational activities in affected communities to promote the resiliency and recovery of those impacted by a traumatic event. The DBHRT may respond statewide when local behavioral health resources have been depleted or are overwhelmed.

DBHRT members represent a wide range of backgrounds and experience. Both licensed and unlicensed mental health and substance use providers fill valuable roles in response activities. Social workers, spiritual providers, educators and medical professionals are all represented on the DBHRT.


Every team member must complete mandatory training. Topics include concepts of disasters, stress response, triage, supportive interventions including Psychological First Aid and basic crisis counseling, roles of key agencies, and the Incident Command System (ICS). Upon successful completion of the training, accepted volunteers receive official identification recognizing them as Disaster Behavioral Health Responders.

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