Preexisting Health Issues Add to Problems for Disaster Survivors08/26/10
THURSDAY, Aug. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Natural and man-made
disasters are difficult for any person to endure, but researchers
point out that these situations are particularly tough on people
with disabilities and mental disorders.
Their research is published in a series of articles in a special
section of the journal
Rehabilitation Psychology that focuses on disaster management
for people with disabilities.
"Katrina taught us a harsh lesson about the plight of vulnerable people in times of disaster and national emergency," journal editor Timothy Elliott, of Texas A&M University, said in a news release from the American Psychological Association, which publishes the journal.
One study looked at Hurricane Katrina survivors with a wide
range of disabilities. The researchers interviewed case managers
and supervisors who provided services to 2,047 individuals with
disabilities and their families after the 2005 storm. Two years
after the disaster, these survivors still faced major barriers to
housing, transportation and disaster services. They were also less
likely to have jobs, which affected their ability to pay utility
bills or buy furniture when they finally made it into more
The researchers also found that people with disabilities were
more likely to have medical needs, which affected their ability to
travel to service agencies or get jobs. Case management with
disabled survivors takes longer because they need help in many
multiple areas of their lives, the study authors noted.
"Case managers who are knowledgeable about the needs of people with disabilities are essential when navigating an already difficult service system following a disaster of [Katrina's] magnitude," lead author Laura Stough, of Texas A&M University, noted in the news release.
In another report in the journal, researchers examined the
impact of both Hurricane Katrina and the 1995 Oklahoma City
bombing. For the research, 182 mostly injured bombing survivors
were assessed, as were 421 hurricane evacuees who had been
evaluated in a mental health clinic at a Dallas shelter.
The most common psychiatric diagnosis for the bombing victims
was post-traumatic stress disorder, with 34 percent of participants
suffering from the problem. The second most common psychiatric
diagnosis was major depression, according to the article.
But the analysis noted that the hurricane actually affected a
greater number of people who were members of an already
disadvantaged population. The main tasks in the mental health
clinic were rapid diagnostic assessment, resumption of psychotropic
medications, and a link-up to psychiatric care for already existing
disorders, they explained.
"Interventions to address unmet treatment needs for an abundance of pre-existing and persistent psychiatric illness would not have been the primary response needed for Oklahoma City survivors," said the study's lead author, Dr. Carol North, from the Dallas Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
The Interagency Coordinating Council on Emergency Preparedness
and Individuals with Disabilities offers
disaster preparedness tips for people with
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