New Hurricane Katrina survivor initiative to guide policy

HMS and NIMH create Hurricane Katrina community advisory group

Beginning Jan. 10, Harvard Medical School, through a $1 million grant by the National Institute of Mental Health, will begin recruiting a statistically representative sample of 2,000 survivors of Hurricane Katrina to serve in the Hurricane Katrina Community Advisory Group. Group members will provide personal health and needs assessment information to help inform public policy. One thousand members of the advisory group will be from the New Orleans area, while the other thousand will be from other affected regions. The recruitment will be national in scope, as many survivors are now in different parts of the country. Results from the first survey of the Advisory Group will be available at the end of February 2006 and will be updated every three months after that for two years.

"This initiative is a unique opportunity to help policy makers monitor the unmet needs of people whose lives were, and may continue to be, severely impacted by this unprecedented disaster," said Ronald Kessler, PhD, Harvard Medical School professor of health care policy and director of the Hurricane Katrina Community Advisory Group Initiative. "Following 9/11, policy makers have wanted to have just this kind of assessment tool to guide policy. This initiative is the result of much discussion and modeling on how to reach survivors of disasters, and is the first attempt to provide actionable information through an advisory group model."

"The process of assembling the Advisory Group will begin on Tuesday, Jan. 10, with phone calls made to a random sample of tens of thousands of phone numbers across the country," said Kessler. People who lived in counties or parishes eligible for individual assistance as determined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are considered eligible to participate in the Advisory Group.

The Hurricane Katrina Community Advisory Group will provide ongoing information to estimate the pace of recovery of the more than 2 million families whose lives were disrupted by Hurricane Katrina. Members will participate in telephone interviews every three months, covering a variety of questions about experiences during and after the hurricane, emotional reactions, opinions about the performance of government and private relief efforts, and practical suggestions about how these efforts could be improved. Over 100 interviewers will be administering the interviews over a course of 30 days, after which time it will take approximately two weeks to formulate data.

Each interview will include a recorded oral history with descriptions of each advisory group member's experiences during and after the hurricane. This will be used to create a permanent archive that can be used by historians, policy-makers, the press, and the public to understand the experiences of people who lived through Katrina. Participants will be asked about what they lost; where they are in the recovery process; what their access is to health care, both physical and mental; if they are getting treatment for medical conditions; and what suggestions they have to make the situation better. Identifying information from participants, including names, will be kept confidential.

This finely-tuned information-gathering tool used to track the experiences of Advisory Group members is being implemented for the first time and is based on lessons learned from past disasters, including the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Quarterly reports and oral history recordings will be posted on the initiative's publicly available web site, http://HurricaneKatrina.med.harvard.edu, as soon as they are available.

Dr. Farris Tuma, chief of the Traumatic Stress Research Program at the National Institute of Mental Health, a component of the National Institutes of Health, noted that "the scope of the recent Gulf Coast disasters is extraordinary, making it difficult to predict the range and magnitude of problems that will emerge as people try to put their lives back together. The use of innovative approaches to understand and promote resilience and recovery is especially important in such a unique situation."

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While the initiative will be coordinated through Harvard Medical School's Department of Health Care Policy, it also includes a broad spectrum of specialists drawn from academia, government agencies, and private relief organizations. Below is a list of many of the scientific collaborators.

Hurricane Katrina Community Advisory Group Scientific Collaborators
Chris Brewin is a clinical psychologist. He was trained in the UK at the University of Oxford and the University of Sheffield. Dr. Brewin is a professor of clinical psychology at University College London. He is also an honorary consultant clinical psychologist with the Camden & Islington Mental Health and Social Care Trust and is part of the clinical team coordinating the mental health response to the July 7 London bombings. His work focuses on post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), with a special emphasis on the determinants of onset and resolution. He is the author of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Malady or Myth? (Yale University Press) and has recently edited The Neuropsychology of PTSD: Biological, Clinical, and Cognitive Perspectives (Guilford Press) with Jennifer Vasterling. He is a fellow of the British Psychological Society and a member of the Board of Directors of the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies.

Sandro Galea is a physician and epidemiologist. He was trained at the University of Toronto Medical School, Harvard University, and Columbia University. Dr. Galea is an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. He was formerly the associate director of the Center for Urban Epidemiologic Studies at the New York Academy of Medicine, where he carried out research on the mental health effects of the September 11 terror attack on the World Trade Center. Dr. Galea's work focuses on the social and economic determinants of mental health, with a particular interest in post-traumatic stress disorder. Dr. Galea is a co-editor of the book Research Methods for Studying Mental Health After Disasters and Terrorism, forthcoming from Guilford Press in 2006. He is the associate editor of the Journal of Urban Health, a member of the American College of Epidemiology, and a fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine and the Royal Institute of Public Health.

Russell T. Jones is a clinical psychologist. He received his undergraduate degree from Western Michigan University and his Masters and PhD from Penn State. His doctoral internship was completed at Brown University. Dr. Jones is a professor of psychology at Virginia Tech University. He is also an affiliate of the Yale University Child Study Center. Dr. Jones was the team leader for the the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) mental health consultant group deployed to Gulf Port, Mississippi, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. His work focuses on issues related to the effects of disaster and terrorism on children. Dr. Jones is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and a member of the Terrorism and Disaster Branch of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. He is a past member of the Board of Directors of the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies and of the CDC's Advisory Committee for Injury Prevention and Control.

Rachel Kaul is a clinical social worker. She received her training at the University of Michigan. Ms. Kaul is a senior analyst for the Center for Mental Health Services Emergency Mental Health and Traumatic Stress Services Branch of SAMHSA, in which capacity she provides guidance to the disaster mental health community throughout the country in promoting expansion and improvement of behavioral health services. She is also responsible for planning, organizing, directing, and evaluating mental health crisis counseling services to survivors of Presidentially-declared disasters. Ms. Kaul is the Federal Project Officer for the FEMA funded crisis counseling projects in Mississippi and Texas for evacuees from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. She also provides federal oversight to the crisis counseling programs in several other states hosting evacuees from Katrina. Prior to joining SAMHSA, Ms. Kaul was a responder for community and workplace crisis teams and a disaster mental health responder with the American Red Cross. She was the coordinator of Crisis Response Services with the Employee Assistance Program at the Pentagon for two years after the 9/11 attack. She has published extensively on disaster mental health, crisis intervention, and responder self-care.

David Kendrick is an internist and pediatrician. He received degrees in chemical engineering and medicine from the University of Oklahoma and trained in internal medicine and pediatrics at Charity Hospital and Tulane University in New Orleans, where he also completed a masters of public health in clinical research. A graduate of the Harvard Program for Clinical Effectiveness, Dr. Kendrick is a fellow at the Center for Information Technology Leadership (www.citl.org) at Partners Healthcare and Harvard Medical School. He is currently on staff at Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women's Hospitals in Boston. He served as a volunteer public health director for the American Red Cross' response to Katrina in the Louisiana theater, implementing disease surveillance, shelter and feeding site safety monitoring, and issue tracking and resolution. Dr. Kendrick's research focuses on identifying the clinical, financial, and organizational value of information technology in healthcare. He is a member of the American Medical Informatics Association, the Health Information Management Systems Society, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. In 2000, he founded MedUnison, L.L.C., a medical software company, and currently serves as chief medical officer.

Ronald Kessler is a sociologist and psychiatric epidemiologist. He was trained at Temple University, New York University, and the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Kessler is a professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School. He is also the director of the World Health Organization's World Mental Health Survey Initiative. Dr. Kessler's work focuses on psychosocial determinants and consequences of mental health problems. He is the recipient of many awards for his research, such as the Reme Lepuse award from the American Public Health Association and the Paul Hock Award from the American Psychopathological Association. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. He has been designated by the Institute for Scientific Information as the most widely-cited researcher in the field of psychiatry worldwide for each of the past 10 years.

Daniel King is a quantitative psychologist. He was trained at St. Johns University, the University of Puget Sound, and the University of Washington. Dr. King was previously a member of the faculty at Central Michigan University and he currently works as a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Boston University. He is also an affiliate of both the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and the Massachusetts Veterans Epidemiology Research and Information Center at the VA Boston Healthcare System. Dr. King's work deals with the causes of traumatic stress reactions, positive life adjustment after trauma, and the psychological and physical health of people who have lived through traumatic events. He is a member of the American Psychological Society, Psychometric Society, International Society for Traumatic Stress, and American Psychopathological Association and the co-recipient of the 2002 Laufer Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement in Research on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder from the International Society for Traumatic Stress.

Lynda King is a quantitative psychologist. She was trained at the College of William and Mary, the University of Maryland, and the University of Washington. Dr. King was previously a member of the faculty at Central Michigan University, and she currently works as a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Boston University. She is also an affiliate of both the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and the Massachusetts Veterans Epidemiology Research and Information Center at the VA Boston Healthcare System. Dr. King's work deals with the relationship between stress and trauma, with an emphasis on war-related stress and gender-related conflict. She is a member of the American Psychological Association, American Psychological Society, Psychometric Society, International Society for Traumatic Stress, and American Psychopathological Association and the co-recipient of the 2002 Laufer Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement in Research on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder from the International Society for Traumatic Stress.

Linda Ligenza is a clinical social worker. She received her master's degree from Hunter College School of Social Work in New York City and has more than 25 years of clinical and administrative experience in the area of public mental health. Ms. Ligenza is currently a special expert with SAMHSA in the Division of Prevention, Traumatic Stress, and Special Populations. She is the program lead for the FEMA Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Grants. As such, she is responsible for monitoring the crisis counseling grants currently serving Katrina evacuees throughout the United States. In addition to working with host states for evacuees, she works extensively with Louisiana health officials to develop, implement, and monitor their crisis response activities funded through FEMA and SAMHSA. Ms. Ligenza came to SAMHSA from the New York State Office of Mental Health, where she oversaw the mental health response to victims of the September 11 attacks.

Nicole Lurie is an internist and health policy researcher. She received her training at the University of Pennsylvania and UCLA. She is the Paul O'Neill Professor of Policy Analysis at RAND, where she also co-directs the RAND Center for Domestic and International Health Security and RAND's NIH-funded Center for Population Health and Health Disparities. Dr. Lurie led RAND Health's response to Hurricane Katrina. Her other work focuses on public health preparedness, the public health infrastructure, health disparities, and access and quality of care for vulnerable populations. Dr. Lurie is a member of the Institute of Medicine and serves on the Board of Directors for AcademyHealth. She is a senior associate editor of Health Services Research.

Richard J. McNally is professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. He has more than 260 publications, most concerning anxiety disorders (e.g., PTSD, panic disorder, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder), including the books Panic Disorder: A Critical Analysis (Guilford Press, 1994) and Remembering Trauma (Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 2003). His recent laboratory studies concern cognitive functioning in adults reporting histories of childhood sexual abuse. He served on the American Psychiatric Association's DSM-IV PTSD and simple phobia committees, and now serves on the DSM-V fear circuitry and stress-induced disorders workgroup. He is a licensed clinical psychologist, a fellow of the American Psychological Society, and winner of the 2005 Distinguished Scientist Award from the Society for the Science of Clinical Psychology.

Fran Norris is a psychologist. She received an MA and PhD in community/social psychology from the University of Louisville. Dr. Norris is a research professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Dartmouth Medical School. She is also an affiliate of both the National Center for PTSD and the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism. Her work focuses on social support after disasters, systems for providing disaster mental health services, the epidemiology of posttraumatic stress, and cross-cultural studies. Dr. Norris is the statistical editor for the Journal of Traumatic Stress. She was the 2005 winner of the Robert S. Laufer Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.

Holly A. Parker is an experimental psychopathologist. She received her PhD from Harvard University, where she was a Karen Stone Fellow and a Sackler Scholar. Her research pertains to correlates and predictors of psychological adjustment after traumatic loss, particularly loss through suicide. She co-facilitates a support group for people who have lost loved ones to suicide and trains crisis hotline workers at Harvard on how to de-escalate suicidal callers. She is a member of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, the American Foundation for Suicide prevention, and the American Association of Suicidology.

Dori Reissman is a physician trained in psychiatry and occupational medicine, and a public health specialist. She was trained at Yeshiva University (Albert Einstein College of Medicine), Columbia University, and Rutgers University. Dr. Reissman works at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Her work deals with responder, community, and family resilience initiatives and determinants of operational readiness to address the psychosocial and behavioral health consequences of large-scale public health emergency events. Among her activities at CDC have been the development of a Responder Resilience Program and epidemiological response initiatives for both the 9/11 and anthrax bioterror attacks. She has also co-authored several national bioterrorism preparedness and response plans. Dr. Reissman was chief of Emergency Psychiatric Services at St. Vincent's Hospital and Medical Center of New York when the 1994 World Trade Center bombing incident occurred. She is commissioned as a senior medical officer in the U.S. Public Health Service.

Anthony H. Speier is a clinical psychologist. He was trained at the University of Texas in Austin and Louisiana State University. Dr. Speier is the director of Disaster Mental Health Operations for the Louisiana Office of Mental Health, in which capacity he is the principal contact for all federally-funded crisis counseling programs addressing the emotional impact of hurricanes Katrina on Louisiana residents. Dr. Speier formerly served as the director of the Division of Program Development and Implementation for the Louisiana Office of Mental Health. Dr. Speier also led the Office of Mental Health SAMHSA COSIG project and has been the principal investigator on a number of CMHS systems change grants focusing on issues specific to adults with severe and persistent mental illness. In his capacity as the state director for Disaster Mental Health coordination and response activities, Dr. Speier has been the project director for nine federal crisis counseling grants following Presidentially-Declared Disasters in Louisiana. He has served as chair of the Adult Services Division of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors. Dr. Speier is a practicing psychologist in Louisiana and holds a clinical appointment in the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Speier has authored a number of publications and training manuals for the Center for Mental Health Services.

Benjamin Springgate is an internist, pediatrician, and public health specialist. He was trained at Brown University, Tulane School of Medicine, and Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Dr. Springgate is a postdoctoral fellow at the UCLA School of Medicine. After Hurricane Katrina, Dr. Springgate helped lead health services organization for evacuees and non-evacuees in conjunction with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals' Office of Public Health. He has contributed to health and safety assessments of evacuees of Katrina as well as to Katrina-related policy briefs with RAND Health. Dr. Springgate helped lead development and implementation of a local-state-federal health sector planning process for the region affected by Katrina - the Framework for a Healthier Greater New Orleans (http://stayhealthyla.org/framework.php). Dr. Springgate's research focuses on assessing the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the physical and mental health of residents of southeast Louisiana. He is a native of New Orleans and a fellow of the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program at UCLA.

Robert Ursano is a psychiatrist. He was trained at the University of Notre Dame, Yale University School of Medicine, Wilford Hall USAF Medical Center, and the Washington Psychoanalytic Institute. Dr. Ursano is a professor and the chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) in Bethesda, Maryland and the Director of the USUHS Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress. Dr. Ursano and his group are national leaders in public health policy planning for terrorism. His group has studied trauma and disaster in a wide range of populations and developed educational materials that have been widely disseminated to assist populations exposed to the September 11 attack, Hurricane Katrina, and other large-scale disasters. Dr. Ursano was a member of the National Academies of Science, Institute of Medicine, Committee on Psychological Responses to Terrorism, and the National Institute of Mental Health Task Force on Mental Health Surveillance after Terrorist Attack. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his work, including the Department of Defense Humanitarian Service Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Traumatic Stress Society. He is a distinguished fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, the American College of Psychiatrists, and the American College of Psychoanalysts. He is the editor of the journal Psychiatry, the journal of interpersonal and biological processes founded by Harry Stack Sullivan. His Individual and Community Responses to Trauma and Disaster (Cambridge University Press.) and his two-volume Terrorism and Disaster and Bioterrorism (both from Cambridge University Press) are among the most widely-cited books in the field of trauma studies.

Simon Wessely is a psychiatrist and epidemiologist. He studied medicine at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, and then obtained his medical boards at Newcastle. He then trained in psychiatry at the Maudsley Hospital in London. He has a master's and doctorate degree in epidemiology from the University of London. Dr. Wessely is a professor of epidemiological and liaison psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London. He is also the director of the Clinical Trials Unit at the Maudsley-Institute of Psychiatry. In addition, he is the director of the King's Centre for Military Health Research Unit at King's College London and a civilian consultant advisor in psychiatry to the British Army Medical Services. Dr. Wessely's work focuses on the grey areas between medicine and psychiatry, clinical epidemiology, and military health, with special interests in chronic pain, the Gulf War illness, and chronic fatigue syndrome. He is currently leading an investigation of the health of 20,000 UK military personnel who took part in the invasion of Iraq. He recently co-authored a new history of PTSD, From Shell Shock to PTSD (Psychology Press) and a new book, Clinical Trials in Psychiatry (Oxford University Press). He is a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Academy of Medical Sciences, and has received awards for his research by the Royal College of Physicians and the American Psychiatric Association.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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