Aims: The Louisiana Spirit Hurricane Recovery Program was a statewide disaster mental health initiative implemented in response to the 2005 Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Major components of the program included community-based culturally appropriate outreach strategies, risk screening and triage, and provision of Specialized Crisis Counseling Services (SCCS). The goal was to identify children and families at risk, and deliver services to address current needs and ongoing distress to prevent longer-term mental health problems. Methods: As the behavioral health needs of special populations, including minorities, and children and adolescents often go unmet, the Louisiana Spirit Program addressed this by placing teams of mental health professionals directly in the severely affected communities. The SCCS program also developed and implemented risk screening and referral procedures using the Child and Adolescent Assessment and Risk Screening Form, and delivered services using an evidence-informed intervention, Skills for Psychological Recovery (SPR). Results: This report describes the screening and assessment findings for 818 children and adolescents. The majority identified themselves as black (77%), 20% as white, and 10% other. The mean age was eleven years. Findings indicated that 68% were displaced; 57% had been evacuated; and 59% had been transferred to a new school. The majority continued to express worry over the future and about something else bad happening. More than one-third were having a harder time getting along with family and friends, having trouble concentrating, feeling irritable, and feeling depressed. Follow-up data for those receiving SCCS services indicated that a significantly greater proportion of children met the criterion for specialized services at their first visit as compared with the last, with a significant decrease overall in the severity of reactions and symptoms. Conclusion: The Louisiana Spirit SCCS Program provides a disaster recovery model of community-based outreach, risk screening, and provision of services for children and families. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has adopted the risk screening form and the SPR intervention for use within the Regular Services Crisis Counseling Assistance & Training Program after presidentially declared disasters in the United States.

Key Take Away Points

  • With proper screening, children and adolescents can be properly identified for behavioral health services
  • Brief trauma interventions can significantly reduce child and adolescents post-hurricane symptoms
  • Providing services in the community, especially schools and homes, can increase access for children and adolescents impacted by a catastrophic hurricane

Author Biography

The authors were part of the Practice Directorate - a leadership body for the Louisiana Spirit Recovery Program. Dr. Speier directed the overall program. Drs. Ososky, Osofsky, and Hansel were from Louisiana State University and Drs. Brymer and Steinberg were from the UCLA/Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress.


Acknowledgement: Team members that participated in the Louisiana Spirit Hurricane Recovery Program also included James M. Becnel, Garcia Bodley, Charles Cook, So’Nia Gilkey, Ruth W. Landis, Betty Pfefferbaum, Kirsten Sundgaard Riise, and Cassandra Wilson.