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4 dead as severe storms hit Houston, TX; Election Protection Program eases access to voting information; surge in solar installations eases energy costs for Missourians; IN makes a splash for Safe Boating Week.

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The Supreme Court rules funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is okay, election deniers hold key voting oversight positions in swing states, and North Carolina lawmakers vote to ban people from wearing masks in public.

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Americans are buying up rubber ducks ahead of Memorial Day, Nebraskans who want residential solar have a new lifeline, seven community colleges are working to provide students with a better experience, and Mississippi's "Big Muddy" gets restoration help.

TX works to address wildfire survivors' mental health

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Thursday, March 28, 2024   

Residents in the Texas Panhandle are starting to put their lives back together after surviving the largest wildfire in the state's history.

The fires burned for three weeks, destroying homes, barns and livestock. The State of Texas Agriculture Relief Fund is accepting donations for survivors.

Sid Miller, Texas agriculture commissioner, said it is not always enough to help with the physical needs of farmers and ranchers. For mental health concerns, there's the AgriStress Helpline.

"These people have lost everything," Miller pointed out. "We've lost over 500 homes and barns up there. A lot of those ranches have been there over 100 years. They've lost their cattle, their fences, their livelihood, so it's a very stressful time."

Miller noted the Helpline is answered 24 hours a day by professionals who've received more than 300 hours of training. It is part of the University of Texas at Tyler Health Science Center. The Helpline number is 833-897-2474.

Miller explained the mental health of people in the ag industry can be affected by geographic isolation, weather conditions and the fluctuating prices of commodities. He added the helpline professionals are trained to deal with issues related specifically to rural communities.

"We answer that phone within 30 seconds, and we'll call you back the next day, and the next day and the next day," Miller emphasized. "As long as you want us to keep checking on you, until you tell us to not check on you, we're going to keep checking on you."

Farmers and ranchers from across the country have taken feed, hay and fencing materials to the Panhandle to help people rebuild. The fires scorched more than 1 million acres and killed three people, and Miller acknowledged it will be at least two years before the full effects are calculated.


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