As a social worker, you develop a really dark sense of humor, a mindset often used as a coping mechanism for some of what you see and the stories you hear. During Katrina, I was living on the West Coast and at conferences, or in simple conversations with co-workers a statement I heard more than any other went something like this: “New Orleans? Jesus, that whole city’s going to have PTSD.”
And while out in the cozy confines of California with its progressive funding of help for those in need (at least before Schwarzenegger and the recession) many there assumed that in New Orleans, people would be taken care of, programs would be set up for counseling or whatever else might be needed to assist the residents both in the city and displaced. It would simply be the right thing to do, the moral thing.
When this line of reasoning was presented to me, I would often ask if they had ever been to New Orleans, especially beyond the confines of the French Quarter? I would say I was no expert on the city, but I cautioned how this “assumed” help would not be the case. Even before Katrina and the flood, the social service systems in the city were bad, with poor funding.
“How bad?” They would ask.
I’d just kinda shake my head.
And five years later, one can effectively conclude that no, not the entire city developed PTSD, but enough of the residents both displaced and returned, did develop enough mental health symptoms to make a social worker’s head spin, especially those social workers who work with children…and the needed help? It didn’t materialize.
“From the perspective of the Gulf’s most vulnerable children and families, the recovery from Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans has been a dismal failure.” – Irwin Redliner, MD, Director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia.
From a new study by the NCDP and a report by the Children’s Health Fund come these key findings:
– Even as long as four and a half years after the event, about 45% of parents report that their children are experiencing emotional or psychological problems that they hadn’t experienced prior to Katrina.
– Children post-Katrina are 4.5 times more likely to have serious emotional disturbance than pre-Katrina. For the purposes of this study, such disturbances were defined as emotional issues, hyperactivity, conduct and problems relating to peers.
– Nearly half of people who had been displaced for over a year by Katrina are still living in unstable conditions.
Dr. Redliner continues: “Affected families need urgent assistance to return to a state of ‘normalcy’ characterized by safe communities and stable housing. Nearly two out of three children affected by Katrina continue to experience serious mental and behavioral problems or the stress of unstable housing or both, with children living in poverty over two times as susceptible to serious emotional disorders. We believe that this represents at least 20,000 children affected by Katrina – and perhaps considerably more. Immediate action needs to be taken to increase mental health services in the region.”
Five years later, this is the case and it is appalling.
I would suspect that with BP’s Catastraphuk, the last thing Congress and the Obama administration want to hear about is Katrina, but these 20,000 kids in Redliner’s estimate? What those who control the purse strings need to realize is, even if they decline to offer help now because of cost, they will be paying for a substantial portion of them eventually. Untreated mental illness in children, especially conduct disorder, often follows predictable paths: substance abuse, criminal thinking, prison.
So why not try to help now, while they still got a chance, as opposed to later in the criminal justice system when the cell block doors slam shut?
And since those in Congress seem to respond best to the money question, here’s a statistic for ya:
In a Houston study, the average cost for mental health treatment and emotional support in 2008 was $1338.99.
The annual cost in 2001 for a prison inmate was almost $23,000 dollars.
Just do the math…I can help if ya like.
Read the article,
Have a nice day.