When exposed to natural disasters and cataclysms, a person may find him/herself in the situation when his/her essential psychological and physical needs cannot be met adequately. Thus, the major objective of every disaster response organization is to mitigate all possible adverse disaster outcomes and help victims and survivals to come back to normal life. However, sometimes crisis intervention strategies may fail to do so due to multiple factors and reasons, including the lack of competent personnel, the inefficiency of decisions made, etc. For this reason, the evaluation of the quality of disaster/crisis response methods is of great significance.
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The analysis of the series of Haitian disasters demonstrates that rescue and crisis management efforts may be undermined because of such reasons as under-funding and collapsed infrastructure that substantially interfered with the fulfillment of the basic humanitarian needs of the population in the country (United Nations, 2008). In this way, the slow reaction of the local government, as well as the international authorities, prevented specialists from providing timely and effective care to those in need. The example of floods in Haiti shows that crisis intervention is not based merely on the quality of interaction between a counselor and victims but, as James and Gilliland (2012) claim, consists of multiple environmental systems, “ranging from the fine-grained inputs of direct communications…to the broad-based inputs of local community agencies” (pp. 655-656). It means that for better outcomes, the evaluation of barriers to effective care should be performed at every level of the disaster response system.
According to the Quality Chasm framework, the major criteria for the evaluation of care efficacy and effectiveness include adequate coordination of crisis response activities; availability of all necessary resources (including funds, technology, and skilled personnel); existence and implementation of functional policies and standards aimed to facilitate disaster/crisis response, etc. (Institute of Medicine of the National Academies [IMNA], 2006). It is observed that the evaluation of strategies’ quality is often carried out through the assessment of organizational compliance with particular relevant standards of performance, as well as the overall patient outcomes combined with supporting administrative information and records serving as evidence to substantiate those results (IMNA, 2006).
The overall procedural and performance quality is usually evaluated by accrediting bodies or professionals specialized in program evaluation. Nevertheless, even a regular health care practitioner or a counselor can largely contribute to quality improvement endeavors by conducting “micro-evaluations of local services” (Astramovich & Coker, 2007, p. 162). Counseling program evaluations “have inherent value in helping practitioners plan, implement, and refine counseling practice” (Astramovich & Coker, 2007, p. 163).
Moreover, it assists in increasing program accountability by fostering the understanding of primary needs and interests of the target population and pressures of the socio-cultural and political environment, e.g., cost-effectiveness, overall impact on clients and other stakeholders, etc. It is worth noticing that in order to achieve both greater accountability and quality of service, crisis response program evaluation should take place at every stage of strategy design and implementation (Lusky & Hayes, 2001). Therefore, Astramovich and Coker (2007) suggest counselors utilizing the principles of action research. Compared to the regular form of research, which is mainly theoretical, action research is oriented towards the implementation of informed and meaningful actions and changes at the post-investigation phase. It is valid to say that direct participation and involvement associated with action research is considered to be an essential method for obtaining positive outcomes in both evaluation and strategy realization at the organizational and community level.
As natural and human-induced disasters become more frequent and massive, the need for the development of high-quality crisis prevention and response programs becomes more evident. The identification and evaluation of drawbacks in disaster relief strategies realized in the past or those implemented in the present can largely help in fulfilling this need. Nowadays, not only independent specialists can conduct evaluation, but individual employees and professional teams can perform it as well. By completing the assessment of organizational processes and program efficacy, not only can counselors improve the quality of local services but also contribute to the enhancement of the crisis response system as a whole.
Astramovich, R. L., & Coker, J. K. (2007). Program evaluation: The accountability bridge model for counselors. Journal of Counseling and Development, 85, 162-172.
Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. (2006). Improving the quality of health care for mental and substance-use conditions. Web.
James, R. K., & Gilliland, B. E. (2012). Crisis intervention strategies (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
Lusky, M. B., & Hayes, R. L. (2001). Collaborative consultation and program evaluation. Journal of Counseling and Development, 79, 26-38.
United Nations. (2008). Haiti: UN calls for urgent aid for hundreds of thousands of child hurricane victims. Web.