Irene recovery workers suffer from compassion fatigue - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Irene recovery workers suffer from compassion fatigue

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NORTHFIELD, Vt. -

It's been 16 months since Tropical Storm Irene smashed through Vermont, changing lives and the landscape forever. Neighbors, and high-ranking officials all pitched-in. Federal Emergency Management Agency officials acknowledged Vermonters efforts.

"I'm not going to take any credit; you all did it yourself," said Mark Landry of FEMA.

As of Friday, about 400 designated repair cases are still outstanding. At a Norwich University summit, officials described the cases as the toughest of the bunch.

"There are a lot of projects that are just about to come to fruition. I'd love to see more of them through to the end," John Halley said.

Halley is a relief construction coordinator overseeing several dozen projects, ranging from mold mitigation to complete rebuilds. Federal grants paid for 10 such positions, but the funding is just about dry and only three are currently getting paid. Halley now volunteers his time.

"It's worthwhile work and I was able to go a span with uncertainty, so I did," he said.

Administration officials say Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont, will ask the Legislature to fund the full 10 case managers for several more months.

Other summit speakers warned that those providing helping hands need to worry about themselves, too.

"We're involved in it, and it can affect us just like post-traumatic stress disorder does," Rhode Island Pastor John Wheeler said.

Wheeler says many aid workers can suffer from "compassion fatigue." Symptoms include: sadness, apathy, mood changes, nightmares and concentration loss among others.

"That is one of the costs of doing what we do," Wheeler said.

Wheeler says compassion fatigue is almost unavoidable, but says the key is managing the hurt.

As Vermonters continue offering aid and tackling problems knowing how to cope becomes more and more important.

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