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SAMHSA News - July/August 2005, Volume 13, Number 4

SAMHSA Responds to Hurricane Katrina

Katrina Response and Recovery - click to view SAMHSA's Matrix: Disaster Readiness & Response

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 [8255]) (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." End of Article

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Disaster Relief Resources

Crisis Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Department of Health and Human Services Volunteer Line: 1-866-KAT-MEDI

Medication-Assisted Treatment Guidelines

SAMHSA's Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

National Child Traumatic Stress Network

SAMHSA's Disaster Technical Assistance Center

Mental Health and Disaster Publications

Fact sheets and publications available for downloading include:

  • How Families Can Help Children after a Disaster

  • After a Disaster: Self-Care Tips for Dealing with Stress

  • A Guide to Managing Stress in Crisis Response Professions. End of Article

See Also—Previous Article

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Katrina Response and Recovery - click to view SAMHSA's Matrix: Disaster Readiness & Response

Inside This Issue

Recovery Is Key for Mental Health Action Agenda
Part 1
Part 2

From the Administrator: Transforming Our Vision

Hurricane Katrina

Medicare Web Page Available

2005 Grant Awards

SAMHSA Supports Efforts To Prevent Suicide

Recovery Month: Youth Drug Use Continues to Decline

Teens Respond to Prevention Messages

Buprenorphine Update

Tribes Weave Visions for Healthy Future

Tribes, Agencies Look to One Sky Center

Retailers Cut Cigarette Sales to Youth

Tip 44: Adult Offenders in Criminal Justice System

New Multi-Language Publications

Public Comments Requested on National Registry

Practice Improvement Collaboratives Report


SAMHSA News - September/October 2005, Volume 13, Number 5

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