Many Children Affected By Hurricanes Have Mental Health Problems

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At least 46,600 Gulf Coast children are experiencing mental healthproblems and other serious aftereffects of the 2005 hurricanes,according to a study by the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and the Children's Health Fund, the New York Times reports. For the study, researchers examined school enrollment statistics, data from the federal census and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and data from a study that has been following about 1,250 families displaced by the storms.

Thestudy found that about 163,000 children were displaced by thehurricanes and that about 81,000 to 95,000 children have returned toLouisiana and Mississippi. Researchers estimate that 46,600 to 64,900children are experiencing serious poststorm problems. The researchers'continuing study of Gulf Coast families found that nearly one-third ofthe children examined have developed depression, anxiety or behaviordisorders since the hurricanes.

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The children who are most atrisk are those who have returned to their home states of Louisiana andMississippi but lack stable living situations, according to the study.About 11,200 children were still living in FEMA trailers at governmentor private trailer parks at the end of September, but the number hasbeen declining as the government begins closing the parks. In addition,many of the children have limited access to medical care, and many inMississippi have lost health insurance and physicians, the reportfound.

Roberta Avila, executive director of the Mississippi Coast Interfaith Disaster Task Force,said, "We still have a lot of families in trailers, and the stress ofliving in that situation is really tough," adding that she is hearingincreasing reports of problems with children ranging from troublecompleting homework to suicides.

Irwin Redlener, president of the Children's Health Fund and director of the National Center for Disaster Preparednessat Columbia, said physicians treating children who survived Katrina"have been reporting just tremendous problems, especially the mentalhealth providers." He added, "We are alarmed at the continuing downwardtrend, the longer the state of limbo continues" (Eaton, New York Times, 12/7).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily HealthPolicy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The HenryJ. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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