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.

Related Resources

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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.]

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.]

Flint drinking water response - United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
On this web page, the EPA provides basic information for Flint, Michigan, residents on safe options for drinking water in light of the discovery in 2015 and 2016 that lead was leaching into the drinking water and that many Flint children had unsafe levels of lead in their blood. The advice is provided on the web page and in fact sheets in English and Spanish. The page also presents an overview of the federal government's response to the crisis in Flint, as well as general information about drinking water, lead, and EPA's part in responding to the crisis in Flint.

Safe water use in Flint - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (HHS, ASPR)
This website features information and links to tip sheets, fact sheets, web pages, and videos about avoiding exposure to lead for individuals and families in Flint, Michigan, where in early 2016 an emergency was declared due to high levels of lead found in the drinking water. Materials are in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic.

The Gulf oil spill - New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM)
In this article, authors review the health effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in several areas, including mental health. They identify some evidence of heightened distress and increases in mental illness and substance use after the disaster, but they also observe some limitations in the research. They note that some people affected by Deepwater Horizon lived in communities that had been affected by earlier disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, and they discuss how some populations may be affected more severely by emergencies like Deepwater Horizon. [Citation: Goldstein BD, Osofsky HJ, Lichtveld, MY. N Engl J Med 2011; 364:1334¿1348. doi: 10.1056/NEJMra1007197.]

Last Updated: 09/13/2016