SAMHSA Responds to Hurricane Katrina
When Hurricane Katrina unleashed its fury on the Nation's
Gulf Coast at the end of August, SAMHSA brought its full
complement of resources to bear on the recovery effort.
The mission was to ensure that crisis counseling and
supportive services were available to residents and evacuees
of areas affected by Katrina and to see that people with
serious mental illnesses or addictive disorders continued
to receive treatment.
The havoc wreaked by Katrina has bred a sense of desperation
among many Gulf Coast residents, particularly among those
who were already troubled by mental health disorders
or addictions. The SAMHSA-funded National Suicide Prevention
Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK ) (see
SAMHSA News article, "SAMHSA Supports Efforts
to Prevent Suicide") was expanded to receive
calls from people in crisis in the storm-affected areas.
Counselors in Louisiana reported a dramatic increase
in calls, from 150 per day before the hurricane to 900
per day after the hurricane.
Within days of Katrina's landfall, SAMHSA had approved
$600,000 in SAMHSA Emergency Response Grants for clinical
services and pharmaceuticals for four states: $200,000
for Louisiana; $150,000 for Mississippi; $100,000 for
Alabama; and $150,000 for Texas, where many of the evacuees
from the Gulf Coast region sought shelter.
SAMHSA is also working with the Federal Emergency Management
Agency (FEMA) to provide crisis counseling program grants
to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, and other
states that receive evacuees.
The SAMHSA Emergency Response Center was activated on
September 1 to assist state officials and support staff
deployed in the field, and to communicate with other
Federal and voluntary agencies dealing with the devastation.
In addition, SAMHSA Administrator Charles G. Curie, M.A.,
A.C.S.W., accompanied Health and Human Services Secretary
Mike Leavitt to the affected areas twice to meet with
evacuees and service providers.
SAMHSA also mobilized its Disaster Technical Assistance
Center to support state officials in their efforts to
conduct needs assessments, provide services, support
ongoing administrative operations, access financial assistance,
and plan for long-term recovery.
SAMHSA officials have been in touch with other Federal
agencies to identify credentialed mental health and substance
abuse service providers within the Federal system who
can assist in the efforts. The Agency is also working
with constituent groups to recruit non-governmental professionals
willing to provide mental health services to people in
need. These professionals include substance abuse and
mental health counselors, psychologists, chaplains, and
social workers. Non-Federal health care professionals
interested in volunteering can call a toll-free number
(1-866-KAT-MEDI) or visit the Web site volunteer.hhs.gov.
The disaster created special problems for people with
opioid addiction. Patients receiving methadone and buprenorphine
suddenly found themselves without access to medication,
and people dependent on opioids but not enrolled in addiction
treatment also needed help. Texas is using the Emergency
Response Grant money received from SAMHSA for the provision
of methadone and related activities.
To assist treatment programs nationwide, SAMHSA issued
guidance on the provision of emergency medication for
opioid addiction. The guidance outlined short- and long-term
procedures to ensure that no disruptions in services
would occur. These guidelines are available at SAMHSA's
Web site at www.samhsa.gov/Disaster/Katrina_Curie_050909.aspx.
As SAMHSA News was going to press, Administrator
Curie observed, "As time passes since the hurricane's
landfall, urgent physical health needs are giving way
to long-term human service needs including mental health
and substance abuse treatment. The immediate task of
saving lives is being supplanted by tasks that continue
to sustain life and address the quality of life. SAMHSA
will continue to assist with meeting those needs."
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Disaster Relief Resources
Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
of Health and Human Services Volunteer Line:
Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator:
Child Traumatic Stress Network
Disaster Technical Assistance Center
Health and Disaster Publications
Fact sheets and publications available for downloading
How Families Can Help Children after a
After a Disaster: Self-Care Tips for Dealing
A Guide to Managing Stress in Crisis Response
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