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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY - In Fall of 2005, the destructive forces of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita wreaked an emotional as well as a physical toll on residents of the Gulf Coast region. Millions of Americans from across the country reached out to hurricane survivors, opening their homes and their hearts. Government employees at local, state and federal levels worked long and hard to help evacuate and rescue people in the Gulf Coast. Many of these people are still in the Gulf Coast helping to rebuild communities. In the months since the hurricanes devastated the Gulf Coast, media coverage of the hurricane survivors has waned. However, for hurricane survivors with psychiatric disabilities, the hurricanes’ destruction resulted in “trauma that didn’t last 24 hours, then go away. ... It goes on and on.” Some of these challenges were unavoidable. As one government official said, “No one ever planned for ‘what happens when your social service infrastructure is completely wiped out.’” Nonetheless, many of the problems could have been avoided with proper planning. As NCD predicted in its April 2005 report, Saving Lives: Including People with Disabilities in Disaster Planning, “[i]f planning does not embrace the value that everyone should survive, they will not.” As a result of its research, NCD found that much pre-Katrina disaster planning did not contemplate the needs of people with psychiatric disabilities, and as a result, many people died or unnecessarily suffered severely traumatic experiences. This paper includes the following major findings and recommendations, as well as various specific recommendations for emergency management officials and policymakers at the local, state and federal levels. [continued]
National Consumer Leaders Assist Louisiana Consumers After the Hurricanes:
From Oct. 17-21 I was privileged to be part of a training, which NEC organized in Louisiana. It is hard to find words for this life changing experience. Trainers and trainees alike have been profoundly moved by the experience. The people of Louisiana captured our hearts. The creoles, the Cajuns, and the rednecks, embraced us. We found solidarity in our suffering. They all had a story to tell and we listened. The training was itself the embodiment of the spirit of peer support. In that spirit, we the trainers were helped as well. As a peer from Michigan had recently shared, “the trainings transformed the poison of mental illness into a medicine we could share with our peers. [continued]
Goals for development of peer support in Louisiana:
David Romprey, an advocate from Oregon and I spent 3 intense days in Louisiana, Sept. 28-30th. We were connected with consumer leaders and advocates through the excellent work of Daily Dupre and Denver Nobles of Meaningful Minds and Margaret Mitchell of Office of Consumer Affairs, OMH. We had meetings each of the days in Baton Rouge and Lafayette to assess the needs of the Louisiana consumers. The following goals and steps were worked out: [continued]
NEC Led Trip to Louisiana Rescheduled to 9/28/05
Due to Hurricane Rita, NEC's sponsored trip to Louisiana has been rescheduled to start 9/28/05. NEC and CORK will use the time to develop training materials and support local leaders in Louisiana.
Report by Joe Rogers of Relief Work in Texas
I am in Texas this week working and I am growing very concerned. Many of our folks are still in the larger shelters and having problems getting placed. Here in Austin they need their convention center back Friday and they have told the remaining folks they must be out. Most of these folk are our folk and need more specialized housing which there is just not enough available. From my own experience of mental illness once this kind of disruption takes place it can take years to find us and get us back to "normal" if ever. In my case I was lost for three years. I would say we are talking about thousands of folks who if they were back in there home community there would be little risk of them becoming homeless but this level of disruption they will be lost.
One case was a young women I talked with who is now mostly living on the street she had been placed in what she said was a nice place but they told her she had to come home by 8. She is somebody who is not doing well, I think maybe this is her first “breakdown” and cannot adjust to rules at this time. She is at great risk. I called around but could not find anybody that could do anything for her at this moment I think I talked her into going back to the placement she has but I do not know how long that will last as they are not a MH placement. - Joseph
NEC Leading Trip to Louisiana (see 9/23/05 note above)
Daniel Fisher is leading a team of consumer/survivor leaders to Louisiana Sept 26-30th. The team has been asked by Federal and State government to help establish a network of peer support services in Louisiana to assist in the immediate and long-term distress experienced by persons affected by this disaster. The team consists of representatives from a recently formed national group of consumer leaders called, Consumers Organizing for Recovery after Katrina, or CORK.
Peer Support by Consumers Relieves the Traumas of Disasters and Facilitates Recovery from Mental Illness. By Daniel Fisher, National Empowerment Center (NEC), with assistance from Kay Rote, Oklahoma; LaVerne Miller, New York; David Romprey, Oregon; and Beth Filson, Georgia (PDF - 432KB, 15 pages, published September, 2006)
Warmlines with National 800 numbers
In the aftermath of the hurricanes Katrina and Rita, people need someone to talk with. There are not nearly enough counselors to provide these services face-to-face. So NEC has compiled a list of warmlines to partly meet this need. These warmlines are all run by mental health consumers, who are trained to provide peer support over the telephone. They are all eager to help the mental health consumers of LA, TX, and MS to adjust and cope. They can be called free of charge from anywhere in the US. View Warmlines list
From the Project Liberty web site (www.projectliberty.state.ny.us/) which was created in the aftermath of 9/11:
Consumers Organizing for Recovery from Katrina (CORK)
Homeless Outreach to Displaced Persons of Hurricane Katrina
How to Volunteer to Help Victims:
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Professionals Needed:
Please visit the United States Department of Health and Human Services website (https://volunteer.ccrf.hhs.gov/), or call the Hurricane Katrina Volunteer Call Center at 1-866-KATMEDI (1-866-528-6334) to volunteer to provide peer support or professional mental health services to Hurricane Katrina victims.
Or call your local Red Cross chapter to find out how you can get involved in the volunteer effort in your community.
Request for Volunteers:
Volunteer Application Link:
Peer Support: Disaster Preparation for People with Psychiatric Disabilities - Self Direction in Mental Health Broadcast Series [webcast]