The New Orleans Metropolitan Area Family Resiliency Project Helps with Mental Health Problems After Katrina

Through the New Orleans Metropolitan Area Family Resiliency Project, the Department of Psychiatry of the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC) provided an array of behavioral and mental health services for children, first responders (including police, firefighters and emergency medical technicians) and their families in three New Orleans parishes hard hit by Hurricane Katrina.

The project described here built on the department of psychiatry's earlier work providing crisis-related mental health services before and after Katrina.

Key Results

The New Orleans Metropolitan Area Family Resiliency Project:

  • Used screening tools and surveys to assess the post-hurricane experiences and associated mental health issues of some 9,000 students, first responders and teachers.
  • Delivered counseling services to some 1,500 people.
  • Implemented a procedure for making mental health referrals.
  • Developed evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies to prepare for future disasters and to inform policy decisions.
  • Conducted two youth leadership programs to support youth resilience, build self-sufficiency and decrease risky behaviors.

Key Findings

  • Counselors screened nearly 7,000 students in the parishes of Orleans, Plaquemines and St. Bernard in the 2007–08 school year and delivered mental health services to 1,388 of them. Some 182 students continued to receive treatment after the grant ended.
  • Based on a small sample of 31 children, researchers found that overall symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the four PTSD clusters—stressors, re-experiencing, avoidance and hyperarousal—decreased after treatment.
  • Counselors screened 1,340 first responders and provided mental health services to 127 of them. From 2007 to 2008, results of the screening suggest a slight decrease in first responders meeting the cut-off score for depression symptoms and a slight increase in the cut-off score for PTSD symptoms.