Excerpts from a New York Times article:
New York Times
April 18, 2006
Evacuee Study Finds Declining Health
By SHAILA DEWAN
Families displaced by Hurricane Katrina are suffering from mental disorders and chronic conditions like asthma and from a lack of prescription medication and health insurance at rates that are much higher than average, a new study has found.
The study, conducted by the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and the Children's Health Fund, is the first to examine the health issues of those living in housing provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Based on face-to-face interviews with more than 650 families living in trailers or hotels, it provides a grim portrait of the hurricane's effects on some of the poorest victims, showing gaps in the tattered safety net pieced together from government and private efforts.
Among the study's findings: 34 percent of displaced children suffer from conditions like asthma, anxiety and behavioral problems, compared with 25 percent of children in urban Louisiana before the storm. Fourteen percent of them went without prescribed medication at some point during the three months before the survey, which was conducted in February, compared with 2 percent before the hurricane.
Nearly a quarter of school-age children were either not enrolled in school at the time of the survey or had missed at least 10 days of school in the previous month. Their families had moved an average of 3.5 times since the storm.
The study's authors recommended expanding Medicaid to provide universal disaster relief and emergency mental health services, as well as sending doctors and counselors from the federal Public Health Service to the region.
The Children's Health Fund, a health care provider and advocacy group, is not the only organization to raise the alarm about mental health care for traumatized children after Hurricane Katrina. A report issued earlier this month by the Children's Defense Fund said youngsters were being "denied the chance to share their bad memories and clear their psyches battered by loss of family members, friends, homes, schools and neighborhoods."