A regional human services authority’s rapid needs assessment of evacuees following natural disasters

David E. Post, MD, Jan M. Kasofsky, PhD, Christopher N. Hunte, PhD, James H. Diaz, MD, DrPH

Abstract


The Atlantic hurricane season of 2005 was not an ordinary season, and Hurricane Katrina was not an ordinary hurricane. Hurricane Katrina damaged more than 93,000 square miles of Gulf of Mexico coastline, displaced more than 1 million residents from New Orleans, and flooded more than 80 percent of New Orleans for weeks, which killed more than 1,300 people, mostly New Orleanians. Inland regional state and local healthcare and human services agencies rushed to assist evacuees, most of whom were uninsured or displaced without employer healthcare coverage.The initial evacuation brought more than 350,000 evacuees seeking shelter to the greater Baton Rouge area, LA, 80 miles north of New Orleans, the closest high ground. This investigation describes the rapid needs assessment developed and conducted by the Capital Area Human Services District of the greater Baton Rouge area, a quasi-governmental human services authority, the regional provider of statefunded mental health, addictive disorders, and developmental disabilities services, on a sample of 6,553 Katrina evacuees in the greater Baton Rouge area. In the event of catastrophic natural and manmade disasters, state and federal decision makers should follow the National Incident Management System and support local designated lead agencies with additional resources as requested.They must rely on designated lead agencies to use their knowledge of the locale, local resources, and relationships with other providers and volunteers to respond rapidly and efficiently to evacuee needs identified through a designated, concise tool that is singularly utilized across the impacted region by all providers to determine the needed response.

Keywords


disasters, natural, hurricanes, Katrina, needs assessments, postdisaster, community health, behavioral health, mental health, health services, access, community health, behavioral health, mental health

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References


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5055/ajdm.2008.0032

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