Building a Disaster Mental Health Response to a Catastrophic Event: Louisiana and Hurricane Katrina

  • Anthony H. Speier
  • Joy D. Osofsky
  • Howard J. Osofsky


The psychological impact of a catastrophic event is complex and is often not well understood by either response personnel or persons directly impacted by the incident. Catastrophic events by their very nature are outside of normal experience and thus, their psychological force is often miscalculated. This miscalculation can directly influence how behavioral health personnel are utilized in disaster response operations. This chapter examines the preparation for natural disasters (hurricanes) in Louisiana since 1992 (Hurricane Andrew) through the more recent emergency planning and response activities associated with Hurricane Katrina. The role of behavioral health agencies and professionals in becoming an integral component of the emergency response infrastructure is examined within the context of the Hurricane Katrina emergency response operations. Our experience delivering crisis interventions services to first responders, children, and survivors in a variety of settings underscores the importance of preparing behavioral health workers with the skills for utilizing standard crisis response protocols including the ability to recognize the symptoms of psychological trauma. Behavioral health disaster operations planning represents an ongoing strategy which is now emerging as a core component of state and national planning, response, and deployment tactics.


Behavioral Health Emergency Response Disaster Response Cruise Ship Shelter Site 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anthony H. Speier
    • 1
  • Joy D. Osofsky
    • 1
  • Howard J. Osofsky
    • 1
  1. 1.Deputy Assistant Secretary, Quality and Accountability, Office of Mental HealthBaton RougeUSA

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