After Katrina - Combating Mental Illness

Helping the New Orleans area community develop improved, more culturally relevant and evidence-based mental health services

Field of Work: Mental illness after Hurricane Katrina

Problem Synopsis: Some 18 months after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, the incidence of mental illness had more than doubled, according to Benjamin Springgate, MD, MPH, then a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholar. Yet the hurricane had destroyed much of the region's capacity to combat mental illness.

Synopsis of the Work: From 2007 to 2010, the Rapid Evaluation and Action for Community Health in New Orleans, Louisiana (REACH NOLA) tackled this mental health crisis through its Health and Resilience Project which brought together community members, service providers, faith-based organizations and academic institutions to develop culturally relevant services for stress, depression, anxiety and trauma-related mental illness among low-income, uninsured residents.

Key Results: Under a subcontract from REACH NOLA, Tulane Community Health Center at Covenant House and St. Anna's Medical Mission incorporated outreach, screening, education, referral and treatment for post-disaster mental health conditions into their work, and delivered such services to thousands of individuals and families from June 2008 to August 2010.

The project's stakeholder partnership model spurred post-disaster recovery at the individual, organizational and community levels, and may inform recovery from disasters in other communities, according to Project Director Springgate.