Public Health Resources

This installment of the SAMHSA Disaster Behavioral Health Information Series (DBHIS) focuses on public health emergencies, including pandemic influenza, disease outbreaks, and water crises. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines a disease outbreak as an increase in cases of a disease that often happens quickly and is above what is normally expected in a group of people in a particular area ( The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines a pandemic as a global disease outbreak (

This installment covers these topics:
• Pandemic influenza (flu) planning that includes behavioral health, as well as preparedness and coping information
• Information about outbreaks of infectious diseases other than pandemic flu, including the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa in 2014 and 2015
• Water crises, including technological disasters like oil and chemical spills that can cause water crises, and their effects on behavioral health
• Communications to improve public health around a disaster
• General public health emergency preparedness and response

Use the menu bar at left to narrow the results by behavioral health issue or condition, prevention or recovery topic, and more.

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A new emphasis on telehealth - American Psychological Association (APA)
This article describes the rise of "telehealth" for behavioral health needs - remote counseling sessions via technology such as Skype or Facetime. For those who may be in isolation or in quarantine from an Ebola outbreak and experiencing stress as a result, telehealth is a possible solution to maintaining a connection with a behavioral health care provider.

As Ebola concerns mount, psychology offers guidance on health-risks communication - American Psychological Association (APA)
This article offers advice on communicating about Ebola and other public health crises. Not only does it give advice to parents on how to talk with children and teens about the Ebola outbreak, but it also provides detailed information to media and industry leaders who may be called upon to give interviews.

ASTHO Legal preparedness series emergency volunteer toolkit - Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO)
This toolkit provides state and federal officials, as well as emergency and disaster preparedness directors and coordinators, with key emergency response volunteer concepts and key federal and state law regulations about emergency volunteers. The toolkit can be used as a resource for legal counsel regarding the deployment of volunteers during emergencies and for educational, training, and planning activities.

"A time of fear": Local, national, and international responses to a large Ebola outbreak in Uganda - Globalization and Health
This paper describes research on responses to an Ebola outbreak in Uganda in 2000 and 2001 as reflected in content in Uganda's two main daily English-language newspapers. The researchers found responses and themes including anger, confusion, stigma, and overworked medical staff. [Citation: Kinsman, J. Globalization and Health. 2012; 8(15): 1-12.]

Behavioral health and emergency preparedness: Continuity of operations (COOP) - Minnesota Department of Health
On this web page, materials are provided to help behavioral health care providers develop COOP plans for pandemic influenza. A PowerPoint explains the basics of pandemic influenza and the details of planning, and a template can be used to guide providers through consideration of key points and work on critical issues to ensure preparedness for COOP in the event of a pandemic.

Behavioral health in the Gulf Coast region following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill: Findings from two federal surveys - The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research
In this article, authors report on data from surveys by SAMHSA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of people affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The surveys looked at mental and substance use disorders, other chronic health conditions, and use of behavioral health (mental health and substance use disorder) services. Authors found only small changes in behavioral health after the spill. They note that they did not look at longer-term effects of the spill or zero in on populations at particular risk and identify some unique characteristics of the response to this disaster that may have improved post-disaster behavioral health outcomes. [Citation: Gould DW, Teich JL, Pemberton MR, Pierannunzi C, Larson S. Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research. 2015 January;42(1):6¿22. doi: 10.1007/s11414-014-9441-8.]

Behavioral health response to Ebola - SAMHSA Disaster Technical Assistance Center (DTAC)
In this hour-long webcast, health care providers relate lessons learned during a unique situation that arose in Texas during the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and 2015: among people who needed to be placed in quarantine was someone who was homeless. Providers worked to find a quarantine site, stay in contact with him, provide support, and help him prevent his accidental transmission of the disease.

CDC crisis and emergency risk communication: CERC pandemic influenza training - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
CDC offers this 1½-day training to anyone interested in developing influenza-specific messaging. Tabletop exercises and informative group discussions are part of the curriculum.

Communicating in a crisis: Risk communication guidelines for public officials - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (HHS, SAMHSA)
This is a pocket guide for public officials that provides the basic components of effective communication during a crisis. [HHS Publication No. SMA 02-3641]

Community Planning - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
This website contains many resources about pandemic influenza preparedness that can be applied to Ebola preparedness. It contains a checklist in English and Spanish listing steps community organizations can take to prepare for an outbreak as well as fact sheets about what to expect during pandemic outbreaks.

Coping with public health emergencies - New Jersey Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Disaster and Terrorism Branch
In this brief presentation (about 17 minutes), the speaker provides information about common individual and community reactions to public health emergencies, identifies populations whose members may be particularly a risk during public health emergencies, and suggests ways for people to cope.

Coping with stress during infectious disease outbreaks - SAMHSA Disaster Technical Assistance Center (DTAC)
This tip sheet from SAMHSA DTAC identifies signs of stress that are common during infectious disease outbreaks, ways to maintain physical and behavioral health, and signs that you may need help from a behavioral health professional.

Coping with the emotional impact of public health emergencies: Helping yourself and others - New Jersey Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services
This brochure provides an overview of public health emergencies such as pandemic influenza, a description of the associated emotional challenges, and strategies for coping with anxiety and stress. A Spanish version and related video are also available at

Crisis and emergency risk communication: Lessons from the Elk River spill - Environmental Health Perspectives
This article presents an in-depth case study of an incident early in 2014 in West Virginia in which chemicals leaked into the Elk River, which provided drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people. The author explains crisis and emergency risk communication, identifies mistakes and successes in West Virginia, notes steps taken in West Virginia to improve preparedness for similar events in the future, and encourages leaders across the country to learn about crisis and emergency risk communication to protect public health in the event of a disaster or other emergency in their own areas. [Citation: Manuel J. Environ Health Perspect. 2014 August;122(8):A215¿A219. doi: 10.1289/ehp.122-A214.]

Department of Health and Human Services disaster behavioral health concept of operations - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (HHS, ASPR)
This concept of operations plan describes the ideas behind and plan for HHS to support behavioral health-related preparation for, response to, and recovery from disasters and public health emergencies such as outbreaks.

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Last Updated: 09/13/2016