Past Events:

163rd American Psychiatric Association (APA) Annual Meeting
Lessons from Hurricane Katrina: Response, Recovery and Rebuilding
May 22-27, 2010
New Orleans, LA

Almost 5 years ago Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. The ferocity of the storm, the breach of the levees, the flooding, the severe devastation, and the complex recovery are important parts of our regional and national identity. The May 2010 American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting included a symposium focused on knowledge gained and lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath that can help guide responses to future disasters.

The following Hurricane Katrina Community Advisory Group (CAG) members presented at this symposium:

Charting the Course of Recovery of Mental Disorders in Hurricane Katrina
Ronald C. Kessler, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School

Dr. Kessler provided longitudinal data on the psychiatric sequelae from an epidemiological perspective including post traumatic symptoms, mental illness and factors influencing persistent mental health needs in metropolitan New Orleans and the Gulf South.

Mental Health and Recovery Following Hurricane Katrina
Joy D. Osofsky, Ph.D. and Howard J. Osofsky, M.D., Ph.D., Louisiana State University

Drs. Joy and Howard Osofsky provided longitudinal data on children and adolescents in St. Bernard Parish, which was devastated by the hurricane and a toxic oil spill, including mental health symptoms, resilience recovery and rebuilding programs.

Louisiana Spirit: Catastrophic Impact and Psychological Recovery
Anthony Speier, Ph.D., Louisiana Spirit

Dr. Speier focused on LA Spirit, Louisiana's mental health crisis response program under the Stafford Disaster Act, its accomplishments and limitations, innovative efforts and standards emanating from components of the program.

In addition to those presentations given by our CAG members, the following presenters also contributed to the symposium:

James H. Scully, Jr., M.D., American Psychiatric Association
Dr. Scully served as discussant and described APA's efforts in addressing needs following Hurricane Katrina as well as prepare for its role in future disasters.

The Federal Crisis Counseling Program: Lessons from New Orleans
Kenneth S. Thompson, M.D., Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), SAMSHA

Dr. Thompson described SAMSHA's mandate, its oversight, interventions beginning at the command center and continuing in meeting the crisis and recovery, and its overall role for disaster planning and response.

On October 31, 2007, Dr. Kessler, Principal Investigator of the Hurricane Katrina Community Advisory Group study (CAG), testified before the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery. In his testimony, Dr. Kessler presented new findings based on follow-up interviews with CAG members. Click the link below to watch Dr. Kessler’s testimony which begins 1 hour 47 minutes into the proceedings.

Post-Catastrophe Crisis: Addressing the Dramatic Need and Scant Availability of Mental Health Care in the Gulf Coast (Real Player Format)

Video Courtesy of C-SPAN

10th European Conference on Traumatic Stress
Mental Health and Service Utilization among Adult and Child Survivors of Hurricane Katrina
June 5-9, 2007
Opatija, Croatia

Hurricane Katrina was the most destructive and costliest natural disaster to occur in the United States. Nearly 5 million people lived in the path of Katrina, and 1.3 million people lived in the New Orleans metropolitan area at the time of the hurricane. Although not in the direct path of Katrina, New Orleans was devastated by a massive flood that occurred as a result. During and after the Hurricane, more than 500,000 residents of Louisiana and Mississippi were evacuated, and more than 100,000 people were housed in temporary shelters throughout the United States. Some 233,000 square kilometers were declared a disaster area, an area approximately the same size as the land mass of the United Kingdom. The papers in this symposium provide early data on the impact of the Hurricane on survivors, in terms of mental health (especially posttraumatic stress disorder), suicidality, posttraumatic growth, and mental health service utilization. The first three papers concentrate on adults, age 18 and older, while the last paper provides insight into the effect of the Hurricane on children and adolescents. Daniel King, Chris Brewin, and Lynda King present on behalf of the Hurricane Katrina Community Advisory Group and the team of scientific collaborators who monitor that study (Ronald Kessler, Principal Investigator).

You can find more information here.

2006 ISTSS Annual Meeting
The Psychobiology of Trauma and Resilience Across The Lifespan

November 4–7, 2006
Hollywood, Calif., USA

Mental illness and suicidality after Hurricane Katrina
Lynda A. King, PhD, Boston University

The Hurricane Katrina Community Advisory Group (CAG) is a representative sample of survivors of Hurricane Katrina who agreed to participate in periodic surveys to monitor patterns and disparities in stress-related mental health problems and treatment of these problems. The baseline CAG survey interviewed 1043 CAG members. Identical questions were asked in the CAG survey as in the earlier National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R) about mental illness and suicidality. The post-Katrina survey also assessed several dimensions of personal growth that resulted from the trauma (for example, increased closeness to a loved one, increased religiosity). This presentation compares results of these two surveys to estimate the impact of the hurricane on the prevalence of serious mental illness and suicidality (suicidal ideation, plans, and attempts). Despite the estimated prevalence of mental illness doubling after Hurricane Katrina, the prevalence of suicidality in the CAG sample was found to be unexpectedly low. Data are presented on the role of post-traumatic personal growth in explaining this result.

Trauma exposure and PTSD among survivors of Hurricane Katrina
Sandro Galea , MD, DrPH, University of Michigan School of Public Health

The vast majority of CAG survey respondents with serious mental illness met criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder. These respondents typically reported exposure to a number of different traumatic and other stressful experiences. This presentation reviews the survey results regarding exposure to hurricane-related stressors and the associations of these stressors with mental disorders. Results are also reported on the effects of differential exposure to stress as well as of differential emotional responsiveness to stress in accounting for observed socio-demographic correlates of PTSD and other mental disorders.

Patterns and predictors of treatment for emotional problems among mentally ill survivors of Hurricane Katrina
Russell T. Jones, PhD, Virginia Tech University

Little systematic data exist on patterns of treatment of mental disorders among survivors of Hurricane Katrina. The CAG survey documents profound unmet needs for treatment in this population. This presentation reviews these results regarding patterns of treatment, treatment sectors and treatment adequacy, barriers to obtaining treatment, and socio-demographic correlates of unmet need for treatment. The presentation closes with a discussion of implications of these results both for addressing the current treatment needs of Katrina survivors and also for future disaster management planning.