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.

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Headlines: Gulf Coast and Beyond…

Almost Prettier than a Sunrise

1. Locals worry Gulf oil spill will hurt them twice

2. Obama energy advisor won’t say if BP to face criminal negligence charges

3. Plugging the WikiLeak: US Government frustrated by lack of options

4. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu marks 100 days with 100 projects

5. Coast Guard and Obama Administration betrays the people and country it is sworn to protect

6. Gay marriage ruling anchored in factual findings

7. Gas companies drilling in Pennsylvania have Committed nearly 1,500 environmental violations in two years

8. Cancer patients relapsing because they can’t afford deductibles on their life saving medication

9. Looking for the truth about the beatings of 2 men by police in the chaos after Katrina

10. Facebook on ‘lockdown’ as it prepares for war with Google

The Crime of the Century: What BP and the US Government Don’t Want You to Know, Part 1.

Some symbols need no explanation

The article by Jerry Cop and Charles Hambleton begins:

“The unprecedented disaster caused by the BP oil spill at the Deepwater Horizon Mississippi Canyon 252 site continues to expand even as National Incident Commander Thad Allen and BP assert that the situation is improving, the blown-out source capped and holding steady, the situation well in hand and cleanup operations are being scaled back. The New York Times declared on the front page this past week that the oil was disolving more rapidly than anticipated. Time magazine reported that environmental anti-advocate Rush Limbaugh had a point when he said the spill was a “leak”. Thad Allen pointed out in a press conference that boats are still skimming on the surface, a futile gesture when the dispersant Corexit is being used to break down oil on the surface. As the oil is broken down, it mixes with the dispersant and flows under or over any booming operations.

To judge from most media coverage, the beaches are open, the fishing restrictions being lifted and the Gulf resorts open for business in a healthy, safe environment. We, along with Pierre LeBlanc, spent the last few weeks along the Gulf coast from Louisiana to Florida, and the reality is distinctly different. The coastal communities of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida have been inundated by the oil and toxic dispersant Corexit 9500, and the entire region is contaminated. The once pristine white beaches that have been subject to intense cleaning operations now contain the oil/dispersant contamination to an unknown depth. The economic impacts potentially exceed even the devastation of a major hurricane like Katrina, the adverse impacts on health and welfare of human populations are increasing every minute of every day and the long-term effects are potentially life threatening.”

Nothing for me to add here…just keep reading, it’s important…

Crime of the Century

You ain’t sleeping tonight…

From Project Katrina Hope: What You Can Do To Help The Gulf Coast

Katrina Hope

Sometimes, it’s difficult to think what to do in situations like this, these problems that are so large, so overwhelming, and oftentimes we do nothing because we don’t know where to begin. The oil spill is like that, two million gallons of Corexit, millions of gallons of oil, the wildlife, all the people suddenly robbed of their culture and thrown out of work. Where do you begin…who might you even get in contact with if you had the means to get to the Gulf Coast to volunteer time?

Well, meet Gretchen Wieland; if you had questions about what you could do, she might be a good place to start.

After a vacation in New Orleans, frustrated by a lack of positive coverage about the volunteer efforts Post Katrina, she decided to make a documentary and create an organization to help, so she created Project: Katrina Hope.

Here are her suggestions for what people who want to help can do:

1. Don’t forget.  Just because there is a cap on the oil leak and almost five years have passed since the hurricane, it doesn’t mean problems just go away.  These men, women and children are struggling.

2. Volunteer.  If you have the time and the resources, go down to the Gulf Coast and get a sense of the morale yourself.  As we approach this critical anniversary next month, there is still plenty of work to be done, and volunteers are the primary source of rebuilding in Louisiana and Mississippi.

3. Write a letter of hope.  If you want to provide hope to a Gulf Coast resident directly, e-mail gretchen@projectkatrinahope.com, where we can set you up with a homeowner pen pal of sorts.  We’ll deliver your handwritten or e-mailed letter directly to a resident who is struggling, giving him/her hope for the future, despite circumstances that may currently feel insurmountable.

Read her article:

Being Kicked While You’re Down…

Have a nice day.

Who Will Pay to Fix Louisiana? Big Oil is Big Pimpin’…

Hey America, you're looking good tonight

You mean to tell me that the short-sightedness was not the sole property of British Petroleum, that all the oil companies have been making shortsighted decision for the past 100 years, and they’ve been enabled in these endeavors by the state’s politicians?

Say it ain’t so Landrieu, say it ain’t so.

8000 miles of canals were dug through the wetlands for easier and cheaper access to oil rigs and pipes while the Army Corps of Engineers dug even larger navigation canals, requested by the industry – canals like the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, yeah, the same one that let in the storm surge and flooded New Orleans during Katrina. Twenty-five square miles of Louisiana coast disappear every year, largely from the erosion caused by these slashes through the marsh. Hey Mr. Oil Company, you broke it, you bought it…so why, asks Oliver Houck, shouldn’t the oil industry kick in their fair share to fix this mess and restore the wetlands?

Never fear, an organization called “America’s Wetlands” is on this case, pitching the idea to Congress that these wetlands must be restored, no matter the price tag, no matter the time required, and it must start as soon as humanly possible. Course, “America’s Wetlands” is made up mostly of oil companies, and according to their plan, the people who’ll pay for this restoration will be the tax-payers…not the companies who profited from this degradation, reaping incredible quarterly profits year after year.

Ever been pimped, America?

Shell oil’s trying to turn you out, and after she’s used you up, all of you Americans out there – especially in Louisiana…well, she’ll be heading off for greener pastures just north of Alaska, seeking the brightest and the best to work the cold, cold streets of ANWAR. Yeah baby – drill, baby drill!

Wear a condom.

Read on for the whole story:

Who Will Pay to Fix Louisiana? by Oliver Houck

Have a nice day.

Whadda Ya Mean, Disenfranchised? Well, Let Me Tell Ya…

Disenfranchised:

1. To deprive (a person) of a right of citizenship, as of the right to vote.

2. To deprive of a franchise, privilege, or right.

I suppose we could start with a definition, tends to set the ground rules so to speak…but sometimes dictionary definitions don’t always cut it man, so stagnant, cold…and this definition certainly is. When one says they are or feel disenfranchised this often lends itself to all topics voting, such as not having the right to vote or being barred from voting but in my situation, this is certainly not the case. I can vote in every damned election I please, but that isn’t the point; what is it I am voting for?  Voting is only as good as your choices, yes sir, and this gets to the heart of it, many ideas to come. All through my raising’s in this country I was taught the virtues of voting, civic responsibility, my voice…blah, blah, blah…and at one time I believed it. Hell I did vote before, Clinton, voted for Clinton and then I never voted again. I helped to put that guy in office and then I watched his move to the middle, directly away from everything I believed in. He cut benefits, health care failed, he passed the telecommunications act of 96 (thank you for clear channel), oh and he bombed Iraq. Why the hell did he bomb Iraq? What the fuck did the Iraqis ever do to me?) I bet I would feel different if they told me I couldn’t vote anymore, probably, yeah…but they haven’t, they won’t. I’m part of the ruling class. I am a white male in a privileged society which means I typically don’t have to deal with race or gender issues unless I decide to, so really, what’s the problem? What’s one bad president? Isn’t just one. I can’t think of a good one. Jesus, look at the last election…I could have voted for McCain or Obama. Sure could have, but I didn’t. What for? A quick perusal of the campaign literature showed neither one would have represented issues important to me, as an American citizen. Issues such as the environment, transparency in government, repealing the patriot act, increasing the benefits to the most disadvantaged, net neutrality, stopping the wars, bringing home the troops, prosecution of the previous administration, restoration of the Louisiana wetlands, rebuilding the levees round New Orleans…etc…man, the list goes on and on. I could have voted, but when one candidate is against everything I believe in, and the other only pretends to be for it while taking huge contributions from British Petroleum, I got no choices. The campaign machines got together and gave me snake eyes, nobody to believe in…therefore I was left without the vote.

Let’s talk about the environment. James Lovelock, a globally respected climate thinker and founder of the Geia principle said recently, “I don’t think we’ve yet evolved to the point where we’re clever enough to handle as complex a problem as climate change,” which is a polite way of saying we’re too stupid to really do anything about it and I would happen to agree.  The only individuals and entities in any position to do anything large enough, fast enough to make an impact on global warming are politicians. So what do they do? Band-aid’s on severed arms. I mean, jesus christ, in this country, these jack-holes are still debating whether there is even a problem. Emotions dictate how this makes absolutely no sense, none at all; these are typically the same people still debating Creationism. But when logic steps in, it all makes perfect sense. People and entities making a great deal of money right now could find their fortunes changing if the status quo were changed. The people and the entities with a great deal of money right now, they also have the power, the money to sway politicians, the money to be politicians, the money to buy advertising, run full-fledged sabotage campaigns against anyone who disagrees. When scientists show time and time again that we are in big trouble, the response by those in power has seldom been to do anything about the problem, unless you consider the problem to be science and scientists. What the fuck? I gotta think a lot of these people have children, grandchildren. It would seem they have the same vested interest in solving the environmental problems as I do, maybe more cause I don’t have any kids and don’t intend too. Do you ever take a look around you? So many days I move about my environment…a dying factory town and I just look at the families and houses and listen to people arguing about who has the biggest yard. I watch them build interstates and I stare at polluted great lakes and, I wonder, amazed…”Do you people realize, really understand that your way of life is ending? Do you stop to think how radically different things will be when your kids are your age? Do you realize there is a good chance that your grand-kids will never get to be your age? This isn’t science fiction, it’s real…very real. I’m convinced that people either don’t understand, or they willfully ignore it…(like I once did, just not wanting to know about it), try to avoid the reality at all costs. Any politician that really tried to do something about this problem is dead in the water. Every corporation with an interest in changing nothing heaves money on his opponent and attacks environmentalist caution as the work of quacks. They have to I suppose. What if they’re wrong? So I do what I can. I recycle, turn off the lights and conserve water. I walk wherever I can and try to do all things environmental…but so what? When everything I do for a year is dwarfed by one company in a  day who doesn’t give a fuck and there is nothing I can do about it?

This is being disenfranchised.

When every politician (especially on the right) makes it a point to go to church, or at least say how they go to church, the mosque, the temple…and they vote their conscience with the lord or Allah…what does this mean for me? Nothing, but it usually works against me. These Christians especially…man, Republicans have turned the manipulation of Christians into an art form. This party fucks them every chance they get by gutting unions that protect the right of red-staters, by scaring them with abortions and homosexuality while they rob em’ blind and set up legislation to make it possible for the banks to take everything the politician’s can’t on the front end, and any time anyone makes some headway against their coercive bullshit, and actually gets a voting bloc to understand how no, the Republicans have never cared about your small farms, hardware stores, mom and pop anything in your small town main street… someone on the right shouts Gay Marriage! Abortion! And the red staters fall in line so fast the next thing ya know the Democrat is saying the same thing. Both sides use the loss of jobs to justify never changing anything that would be helpful in the long run and then when they get into office what happens? The jobs disappear anyway.  And then at the next election when someone issues a warning about the way that coal mine is dumping runoff into the river and destroying your water supply…the goddamned Republicans and Democrats do it again, what, ya wanna lose jobs? What? Ya wanna let homosexuals and lesbians abort babies for sport? Better vote with me or you’ll be truly screwed in the eyes of the Looooorrrrrdddd!

Eat me, this is being disenfranchised.

I believe there is a limit to the amount of prying the government can do in one’s life and I don’t care if we are in a war without end. I don’t care if the terrorists are hiding in the frozen food section of my grocery store. I don’t care if the technology has changed and now the FBI wants…the NSA wants…the CIA wants…the local cops want… don’t care. My right to privacy is inviolate, and no, much as many politicians would like you to think, this doesn’t mean I have something to hide. I don’t, but what I do have going on in my life is none of your fucking business, unless I choose to make it so. Don’t try to scare me. Don’t try to strong arm me. Don’t try to tell me how unpatriotic I am being. I’ve read the constitution and I’ll take the comparison of my beliefs to your action any day of the week, so fuck you. My local police department has a fucking armored personnel carrier. What? What the hell for? And no, I don’t believe in gun control, but I do believe in gun safety. I don’t even own a gun but I start to wonder whether I’ll need one, but it isn’t the drug dealers or the burglar that has me concerned. I have hockey stick hanging on the side of my door, just ready for those gentleman should they ever decide to come in uninvited and I don’t really need anything more than that against them, but a tank? Jesus Christ. One candidate said he would never repeal the laws that have given these agencies this power and despite being a Vietnam Veteran who was tortured, he also said he wouldn’t do anything about the way our operatives now torture? Oh and Obama, well, he said he would do a lot, but hasn’t done much to impress me…banking reform and health care reform he caved in on, watered down to the point of near meaningless…Band-aid action, baby…so what is it I am supposed to do about this?

This is being disenfranchised.

I believe that Wal-Marts shouldn’t run small towns. I believe they should give health insurance to everybody, pay adequate overtime. I believe that in times of economic crisis, this isn’t the time for state and federal governments to cut services and benefits to people who are losing everything, who are mentally ill, who are old and infirm and on and on to essentially everyone who gets impacted by severe economic crisis while plenty of money is given to prisons, to subsidies for agra-corporations who are screwing with our food supply without long range epa testing (the funding for which Bush gutted) to big box stores like Wal-Mart so they can go ahead and run out of business mom and pop stores thus ensuring there are that many more people who need services that are getting cut to help them build more and destroy more…and the cycle goes on and on and nobody does anything about it because they figure that for shit Wal Mart jobs are better than no jobs, but I happen to disagree with this lie of reasoning…

This is being disenfranchised.

I believe in the right of assembly, that means that containment zones at Democratic and Republican conventions are bullshit.

I believe that when buildings are abandoned by corporations in decaying downtowns, these buildings should be taken over by squatters with no place to live.

I believe in universal, single payer health care systems.

I believe that the war on drugs is racist and used to inflate budgets and build prisons and do we really need it anymore anyway? We have the war on terror now.

I believe in restoring the wetlands of the Louisiana coast, that everyone kicked out by Hurricane Katrina should be ushered back in, that the housing projects shouldn’t have been closed and that the flood act of 1928 should be repealed so we can sue the shit out of the corp of engineers.

I believe in net neutrality.

I believe that the solution to higher crime rates is not tougher policing and longer jail penalties but more opportunity for people in poverty.

I believe that the assets of British Petroleum should be seized, BP should stop using Corexit and the executives who ran this show should be brought up in charges, instead of some guy who just went for a swim off Grand Isle.

I believe that whenever a talking head on the radio or sunday morning news programs says something he knows to be a total fabrication, and a quote is provided to prove they lied, they should be fined a grand, every fucking time.

I believe that most people who define themselves as an expert, are full of shit.

I believe that Yoo at Berkeley should be locked in fucking jail.

I believe in a shield law for every reporter and whistleblower.

I believe that when the founding fathers said we all had a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and they meant everybody, and no, they weren’t kidding.

I believe that the concentration of wealth is not just a matter of hard work and is generally bad for everyone.

I propose that everyone who criticizes this country as heading down the road to socialism be barred from a public education, libraries, and when they’re in trouble neither the police are fire department be allowed to respond. Fuck ’em.

I believe that the Israeli government sanctions murder, treats Palestinians horribly and should be put on UN sanctions, as should we  for doing the same thing to Native Americans in this country.

I believe that slavery still exists in America, except now we call it the prison system.

And yes,

This is why I feel disenfranchised.

I’m an American…yeah, but I sure as hell don’t feel like I’m in America. I don’t know what I’m suppsoed to feel like when I am not represented by any politician, no way, no how. I do understand I have it prety good here, but this doesn’t mean I should lie down at the feet of everyone who is trying to make this place even fucking worse in the name of God, or fear, or jobs or whatever bogeyman runs the news agenda for the day.

I don’t go that way.

All I got left is a voice, that is ever more difficult to hear due to the consolidation of radio, publishing, newspapers, television and if the telecoms have their way, the internet…

This is why I feel disenfranchised.

This is being disenfranchised.

This entire voting scam only works for the mainstream of society, for those who believe in the myths of our country, the idealism spoken of at fourth of July parades, on Memorial Day and on Anniversarys of September 11th: land of the free and the home of the brave, real patriots and real America, this is a god fearing, christian country

Essentially, all these ideals that don’t speak to me now, and never did.

This is being disenfranchised.

Afterword to Why New Orleans Matters – Tom Piazza

New Orleans Map

Picked up this book at a favorite bookstore in New Orleans called Faulkner Books located in Pirate’s Alley…read it on the flight home, highly recommended and nothing I need to add to it…

Here is the afterword…by Tom Piazza:

“How to convey the mixture of gratitude and grief, anger and joy, worry and hope, that we in New Orleans live with everyday? I don’t know that it is possible. So many people have gone…died, moved away…leaving an emptiness that can’t be filled. And yet so many are still here, so many have returned, with such spirit, such insistence on being alive while they still can. The city has been wounded so badly, and yet so many people have shown us such healing love and commitment, such generosity. We have no faith left in our leaders, and we live with a constant awareness that the promised repairs to the levee system may turn out to be as inept as the original construction, a fear that everything we have worked to rebuild these past three years might wash away with the next hurricane. And yet we hope. And above all savor the precious day, the moment, each meeting with a friend, every bite of every meal.

Mortality can be a great way of focusing the mind. If you are lucky enough to still be here, alive, in New Orleans, you will find new resonance in the old saying “We are not promised tomorrow.” Do it now. Tell them now that you love them; don’t wait. You are not exempt. You just got lucky, that’s all. This time around.
An afternoon, gloomy, maybe nine months after Katrina, summer coming on, at a gas station on Lee Circle: a man in his late thirties maybe, sitting outside with a can of something in a brown paper bag, bloodshot eyes, raggedy shirt. I had just learned that a friend had killed himself, and that the house where I had been renting an apartment was for sale and I didn’t know where I’d be living. Light stuff, as post-Katrina trauma goes, but still. Plus the ostinato of anxiety regarding the upcoming hurricane season: What if we don’t get a chance to get a leg over? What if all the effort turns out to be for nothing?

The man with the bloodshot eyes had apparently been watching me walking with the cloud of gloom over my head because as I approached he said, “What’s the matter?”

Startled, I looked at him, saw the eyes, the clothes, the can of beer in the bag, and, figuring that he was probably having it considerably rougher than I was, responded, “Oh…you know…nothing worth talking about.”

“You got that depression,” he said, looking up at me, sizing me up. “It’s going to be all right. God have a plan for everything. Everybody dealing with something. People walking around talking about, ‘Why this happen to me? Why me?’ Well…why not you?”

A lesson as old as the Book of Job, of course, only more wittily and succinctly put. In that one perfectly formed question lay a tool for dismantling depression and self-pity.

The thing that made all those second-lines and funeral parades and all that house-rocking New Orleans music so profound was obviously not that they came from a mansion on Easy Street. They were defiant gestures of grace and humanity in the teeth of mortality and the worst hard times. The triumph over the pain, the recognition of life’s brevity, is what makes the reaffirmation beautiful.

Years ago, just after I moved to New Orleans, I saw a photo in a calendar put together by the radio station WWOZ. It was a black-and-white photo of a second-line, and in the middle of it was a man dancing, cutting a very serious step, jumping on one leg in the middle of the street, his body at an odd angle and his mouth open, hollering some defiant open syllable, and as I looked at it closely I realized that he was jumping on one leg because he only had one leg. He was second-lining on one leg. Someone in the crowd was holding his crutches for him.

“Why not you?” Yes. And also, “If not you, who?” Don’t think you have placed yourself out of harm’s way. You are not exempt, and you will not be exempt. What you do about it is your business, of course. But if you don’t dance, who will?

We are all involved in writing the story of our time, together: lawyers and taxi drivers, politicians and journalists, carpenters and electricians and roofers and students and real estate speculators and tax assessors and nurses and doctors and clergy and nightclub owners and everyone else in our crazy, noble, desperate society. And in the future, assuming there is a future, our children and grandchildren will read our deeds and their results, and draw their conclusions. But for now, we ask ourselves these questions, if we are serious: How do you want to live your life? What do you want to see when you look in the mirror? What legacy do we want to leave to our children? What do we, as a society, want to represent, to ourselves and to the world? Few of us have it in ourselves to be saints, to spend our lives working among the poor and the sick and giving away our material goods. But we do have the power to tell the difference…still, at this late date…between right and wrong, between selfishness and love. After such an experience as we have been through and are still going through, we may yet hope to bring out the best in one another and in ourselves. Long live New Orleans.”

-Tom Piazza
New Orleans,
May, 2008.