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SAMHSA News - November/December 2005, Volume 13, Number 6

Administrator's Message

As the weeks have passed since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the first phase of crisis response has given way to a second phase of long-term recovery. The immediate task of saving lives is replaced with tasks that restore the quality of life.

SAMHSA's mission is twofold: (1) to ensure that mental health assessment and crisis counseling are readily available to residents and evacuees of areas affected by the hurricanes and to establish a longer-term plan to assure that post-traumatic stress disorders are addressed within this population; and (2) to ensure that people impacted by the hurricanes who have serious mental illnesses and addictive disorders and children with serious emotional disturbances continue to receive ongoing treatment for their chronic problems.

I am proud of SAMHSA's quick response, including the establishment of our SAMHSA Emergency Response Center, the deployment of SAMHSA staff and mobilization of staff from other sources—both Federal and non-Federal—to the affected areas, our grants to states for clinical services and pharmaceutical assistance, and our efforts to collect data to guide our continuing efforts.

I was also impressed, during my own visits to the Gulf states, by the resiliency of both evacuees and responders. I was struck by the many traumas that people had suffered: the hurricanes, the floods, the displacement, the loss, and for some people, the dehumanizing way that they were treated during and after the events.

I observed that shelters that fostered a sense of community and encouraged trusting relationships enabled people to begin healing.

It's important to engage people from the start in developing a self-determined plan that gives them a sense of purpose and direction. Visualizing their own goals helps people gain a sense of control and an investment in the future.

Similarly, our efforts to rebuild communities and service systems should focus on assisting locally led efforts—both private and public sector—and on coordinating activities among local, state, and Federal governments instead of imposing a solution from the top down.

Rather than create a duplicate of our former service system for mental and addictive disorders, we should encourage the growth of a transformed health care system that is responsive to consumers and their families, uses methods based on proven evidence, is oriented toward prevention, and uses health care technology to improve quality. In this way, we can use this difficult experience to create a modern, vibrant, and sustainable future.

Charles G. Curie, M.A., A.C.S.W.
Administrator, SAMHSA

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