Social Justice

Change Makers: BBS Counseling’s Margarita Romano on Caring for Survivors After the Las Vegas Shooting

Since the Las Vegas Shooting, Nevadans have been stepping up to help victims and their loved ones in need. In a quiet office park near UNLV, BBS Counseling is providing critical mental health care services to survivors… Including Spanish speaking survivors in need of counseling. We spoke with a BBS counselor this week about what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and what lies ahead for them and the survivors.

How BBS has become an integral part of local recovery efforts

As Southern Nevada has become more diverse, so has the need for multilingual mental health care. BBS Counseling began in 2000 with one therapist and one volunteer receptionist. BBS has since grown to a staff of over 100 who are committed to filling a critical void in the community, and counselors were already seeing about 600 clients a week before October 1.

At first glance, one would ask why BBS’ services would be needed here. After all, the shooting happened at a country music festival, the kind of place where one expects to find a large gathering of “Middle America” conservative caucasians. But in reality, people from all walks of life were affected by this tragedy.

Margarita Romano, a clinical social worker intern at BBS, explained to us how far this event has reached into our community. Most of the survivors being treated at BBS are staff who were working at the Las Vegas Village event site or Mandalay Bay at the time of the shooting. “All the people who were cleaning, serving, providing food at the event […] are actually Latinos,” Romano said. “They needed immediate crisis assistance.”

“Maybe they’re not medically injured. But psychologically, they’re impacted.”
– Margarita Romano, BBS Counseling

Since the shooting, BBS has been seeing over 100 additional clients who have been affected by this tragic event. BBS has been offering group therapy and one-on-one counseling to survivors free of charge. Romano reminded us that beyond the physical injuries experienced at Route 91 Harvest is a world of mental and emotional pain that must also be addressed and treated.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 28% of mass shooting survivors experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In addition, it’s not uncommon for survivors to struggle with issues such as loss of sleep, withdrawal from friends and family, feeling insecure in their surroundings, and feeling guilty for surviving when others couldn’t. “Maybe they’re not medically injured. But psychologically, they’re impacted,” Romano told us. “It’s going to be quite a long-term [project] to provide psychological assistance.”

“As our levels of adrenaline come down, we increasingly feel the physical pain and the emotional aches.”
– Margarita Romano, BBS Counseling

Romano described to us what these survivors experienced in the first week after the shooting. “They’ve been having nightmares. They don’t feel like eating. They don’t feel like sleeping. They feel very scared. They feel very vulnerable.”

Romano then noted that these survivors witnessed people dying on that fateful Sunday night, and that many of them were among the very first to provide assistance to their fellow survivors. “As the days were passing, people were processing what really happened. […] As our levels of adrenaline come down, we increasingly feel the physical pain and the emotional aches.”

“It’s important for [survivors] to first heal.”
– Margarita Romano, BBS Counseling

As we discussed the impact on victims, Romano also explained the broader impact this kind of event has on the community. “It has been a moment of crisis, directly for the victims and their families […] But also indirectly for the rest of the community. This is something that we were not prepared for as a city. As human beings, we’re never fully prepared.”

Yet since the tragedy, Las Vegas locals have been donating, volunteering, and seeking other ways to help with recovery efforts. In addition to providing counseling services, BBS and Mente Sana (an affiliated non-profit organization) are working with other local charitable organizations to collect food, clothing, and essential household items to give to survivors in need.

Photo by Andrew Davey
Photo by Andrew Davey

Romano described this as a holistic approach to ensuring survivors can get the help they need without fear of financial hardship. “All of these people who were there, they have families. They have needs. It’s so hard for them to go back to their place of employment, so it’s important for them to first heal.”

For us to be able to continue providing [care], it’s important for us to continue receiving help from the community.”
– Margarita Romano, BBS Counseling

BBS has an Amazon wish list of items that survivors are requesting. Mente Sana is also accepting monetary donations and volunteer assistance to distribute goods to survivors. Romano expressed her gratitude for all the support BBS and the survivors have received thus far, but also stressed that this crisis won’t just fade away anytime soon.

“We are going to need more help. Each person has their own time for healing. It’s very important to understand that this is more of a long-term [issue],” Romano said. “This is going to be long-term support. That’s why we need more resources. […] For us to be able to continue providing, it’s important for us to continue receiving help from the community.”

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