Date of Award

8-2007

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Human Ecology

Major Professor

Susan M. Smith

Committee Members

John C. New, June Gorski

Abstract

The purpose of the research study was to assess the impact of the hurricanes Katrina and Rita on community mental health facilities client service capacity and emergency preparedness in the disaster declared and non-declared areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia and Texas in the U.S.A. The impacts associated with client service capacity and emergency preparedness were evaluated. A survey instrument was created, tested for reliability and used to assess the client service capacity and status of emergency disaster preparedness at community mental health facilities following the hurricanes Katrina and Rita disaster. Differences in the reported client service capacity and emergency preparedness of community mental health facilities located in disaster declared areas and non-disaster declared areas were compared.

The results indicate that disaster declared areas will experience an inadequate number of community mental health counselors to meet demand during the disaster response period when compared to community mental health facilities located in non-declared disaster areas. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita declared disaster areas reported exceeding their ability to provide referral services at a significantly higher level than those community mental health facilities located in non-disaster declared areas. In the declared disaster areas the capacity to supply referral services for the following were reported to be exceeded: inpatient placement, food and shelter, medication needs, emergency health care, substance abuse, reuniting of families, care and sheltering of animals.

Emergency exercise and or drill practice does not necessarily increase after a disaster whether or not a community mental health facility is in a disaster or non-disaster area. Study findings also indicated that those facilities located in a disaster declared area reported experiencing a greater client concern about the loss or separation from a pet when compared to the non-disaster declared areas.

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