The Legacy of Katrina Study – The Kids Aren’t Alright

Another legacy from Katrina

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,

‘Legacy of Katrina’ report details impact of stalled recovery on mental health status of children

Have a nice day.

One thought on “The Legacy of Katrina Study – The Kids Aren’t Alright

  1. PTSD is no joke. You don’t get over it. You learn to live around it. What really worries me about what you describe here, especially with younger survivors is the thought that some will grow up and be sort of surrepticiously self destructive as a result. There will be this seed inside of them, that whispers, that they won’t live long anyhow, and then they will literally live like there is no tomorrow but not in a way that is either healthy or admirable. Think Risky behaviors x100. Substance Abuse, Risky or Precotious Sexual Liasons [unsafe ones] and refusing to build a life, in which there is a future.

    If you are convinced at some level you are going to die young and no one cares, then you can drink til you puke, you can screw anyone you want, and you don’t need to save for college because you will never make it that far. You don’t build community connections, you don’t use the ones you have, you are on your own period. That is not a life. That is a suicide in slow motion.

    What also bothers me is that, this is compounded by the latest and greatest abandonment of the Gulf. And that is what it is.
    During Katrina, they felt {and rightly so} abandoned. And now it’s happening all over again. That will trigger a great many latent cases that might not have been full blown before in both adults and younger survivors. As as well as create new cases, or spin off other mental health issues as you so aptly described in your post.

    How are these people supposed to feel supported, and feel like they are part of this country if we drop them like a hot potato everytime something bad happens down there?

    People are screaming about Pakistan. And I understand it is a tragic, a huge disaster and we should send help. What I don’t understand though is why we can help Pakistan or Chile, or what have you, but we, Americans cannot seem to effectively lift a finger for our own.

    Talk about a dysfunctional family dynamic. It’s like the Gulf has become our Regional Scape Goat for some reason I cannot fathom. Even at times the classism I see in the Gulf seems to echo that from their own, on their own.

    I am at a loss.

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