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Medical News & Perspectives
January 18, 2006

Post-Katrina Mental Health Needs Prompt Group to Compile Disaster Medicine Guide

JAMA. 2006;295(3):259-260. doi:10.1001/jama.295.3.259

His voice is calm, but psychiatrist Richard Weisler, MD, sounds troubled after reading statistics from a rapid assessment survey of greater New Orleans, La, that was conducted 7 weeks after Hurricane Katrina splintered the homes and lives of hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast residents.

The assessment, prepared for the Louisiana Office of Mental Health by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), shows that 45% of 166 individuals interviewed scored high enough on a rating scale for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that they would be expected to accept a referral for mental health services. When extrapolated, that figure translates into between 142 000 and 214 000 adults returning to New Orleans who may feel they need mental health care.