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Sunday, July 3, 2022

Family assistance center up and running at fairplex

mgarcia@ulnnow.com

The family assistance center at the Uvalde County Event Center at the Fairplex, 215 Veterans Lane, has a multitude of services available to staff and students of Robb Elementary School, as well as survivors and the families of the 21 victims of the horrific May 24 school shooting.

Counseling and mental health services, including white noise machines and FBI crisis response K-9s, free attorney consultations, translation and transportation services, as well as childcare services provided by agency partners who have passed background checks, are all available for no charge at the fairplex.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are also being served. Bluebonnet Children’s Advocacy Center representatives are also providing services.

This is the one-stop shop,” said Staci Beers with the FBI Office for Victim Assistance.

One thing they are currently in need of is lodging, and anyone who has an RV they are willing to allow use of and can bring to the fairplex is asked to call fairplex staff at 830-591-9040.

There are a lot of resources here. So what happens, victims will come in, we will sit with them quietly, we will assess their needs. Are they looking for funding for gas cards? Do they need gift cards for Walmart, because they have a lot of families coming in? Do they need transportation?”

Beers said many airlines, including JetBlue, Southwest, American and United have offered flights for the victim’s family members, and agencies at the fairplex can help coordinate that.

She said Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance agents, who insure most Uvalde teachers, are available to help ensure there are no gaps in coverage and offer access to tele-health services if needed.

Representatives from the Mexican Consulate, as well as translators, are on scene to assist families.

The Red Cross and the Salvation Army have vouchers for the next-of-kin of the deceased, as well as for injured victims, similar to debit cards that can be used for various expenses; and the Crime Victims Compensation Program with the Texas Attorney General’s office is on scene to help process applications.

Beers said families can come in and meet one-on-one with a trauma-trained claims specialist who will process their claim while they wait, reducing wait time from around seven days down to about an hour or two.

Beers said applying for the crime victims compensation is critical for long-term care.

You know, we get an application open, and it provides all kinds of resources from long-term counseling, medical assistance, mental health, I mean people will be feeling the impact of this for for a very long time. Once that claim is opened, it’s open forever,” Beers said.

The center, opened in partnership between the 38th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Texas Department of Public Safety, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has already served over 178 people since it opened on May 25.

It’s growing, and we want to grow it even more,” Beers said. She said they hope to serve all of the hundreds of children and adults who were at Robb School that day, students, teachers and staff.

No identification is required, and there are separate counseling areas to help ensure privacy. Access is monitored and media personnel are barred from access to the facility while it is in operation.

This is a sacred space for victims to come,” Beers said.

The Family Assistance Center is open every day through June 1, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the fairplex.

Crisis response K-9s

The FBI has two crisis response canines, Wally and his brother, Giovanni, on scene, who help mitigate stress and anxiety.

The K-9 siblings, both Labrador Retrievers, were the first two of the FBI crisis response K-9s when the pilot program was launched in 2016. Wally is 8 years old, born on Cinco de Mayo, and he and Giovanni began training for this work when they were six weeks old, Beers said. They are certified Assistance Dogs International. The team has been all over the country, supporting people after mass violence events.

Three other therapy dogs are on scene, including Lupe and Dozer, flown in with their handler from the San Bernardino District Attorney’s Office; and Beaumont, from the Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s Office in New Mexico, who came via car.

All five dogs will be working at the center, available to comfort children and adults.

Services will be available to family members of the deceased, those suffering physical and emotional injuries, school faculty and staff and all students,” Christina Busbee, 38th Judicial District Attorney said.

For more information, call the center at (844) 586-8336.

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