Date of Conferral



Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Social Work


Pablo Arriaza


Studies have shown that emergency mental health trauma (EMHT) services can significantly reduce the long-term effects of trauma after a disaster. However, rural municipalities may find they do not have the capacity to create such a service, or may not realize that their disaster planning includes no provision for emergency mental health care. Such was the case in a rural island community in the state of Washington, where, in 2014, several residents initiated a discussion that helped to identify the community's lack of EMHT services. This project, framed by action research and based on collaboration theory, sought to advance the potential for the community's 21 resident social workers to address this issue collaboratively. Accordingly, the project's research question asked how social workers on south Whidbey Island perceived the issue of a rural EMHT service in their community. Data consisted of responses from 8 participants who completed mailed questionnaires and participated in brief telephone interviews. Descriptive coding analysis of the data confirmed a nearly universal lack of knowledge about an EMHT service, a clear perception of the need for such a service, and a unanimous commitment from the respondents to participate in addressing this problem. Such collaborative activity is expected to have a positive impact on the micro, mezzo, and macro levels of social work practice in south Whidbey, as well as on the community itself, not only in spearheading a dialogue about EMHT but also in activating a group of social workers who had no prior association.