Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast two years ago this week, forcing about two-thousand storm survivors from Mississippi and Louisiana to settle in Iowa. Some 1,300 still live here. A national study finds some hurricane survivors aren’t getting the mental help they need, according to Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare.
Rosenberg says, “We’re continuing to see an increase of depression and anxiety, P-T-S-D (post-traumatic stress disorder), certainly the hurricane season, which is upon us now is another way, another added stress, to people who’ve been through that trauma. Hopefully, in Iowa, people are getting the services that they need to go on and make an adjustment and live productive lives in your state.” She says poor funding and staffing shortages continue to plague the mental health care system.
Rosenberg, who’s based in Washington D.C., says, “Health care generally is in the midst of a staffing crisis and because mental health and substance abuse treatment is probably on the lower end, or the lowest end, of the pay scale, our crisis is even worse.” She says the findings of the study suggest providers – those on the front lines of treating patients traumatized from the unprecedented disaster – need more funding and resources to manage their caseloads.
Rosenberg says, “Our members across the country, including our member organizations in Iowa, report tremendous difficulty recruiting and retaining staff to treat people with mental illnesses and addictions. It’s something our country is going to have to grapple with, particularly as we have an aging population that not only has more physical illnesses but you see more depression and anxiety and even suicide in older adults.”
American Red Cross officials say more than 1,700 Katrina survivors signed up for help in Iowa, while some 200 more moved to Iowa but didn’t seek assistance. The agency spent one-point-three million dollars on survivors in Iowa initially, and another 920,000 on families that requested long-term assistance.