Tag Archives: louisiana

Report looks at oil-spill fallout for children, families

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

As the gulf oil spill dragged on, coverage of its psychological and economic aftermath gained momentum. Now, Poynter’s Al Tompkins has spotlighted coverage of what is sure to be a flood of follow-up reports and post-mortems. Based on research conducted from July 19 through 25 (the well has been effectively capped since July 15), the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University has released its “Impact on Children and Families of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill,” subtitled “Preliminary Findings of the Coastal Population Impact Study.”

spill

Photo by kk+ via Flickr

As Tompkins points out, the study has already pulled in significant media coverage. Shaila Dewan’s story in The New York Times, for example, covered both specifics and context:

“There’s been a very overt effort by BP and the Coast Guard to project a sense that the crisis is over, but this is far from the case,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener, the director of the center and president of the Children’s Health Fund, a sponsor of the survey. “Our survey shows a persistent and overwhelming level of anxiety among families living near the coast, driven by both medical symptoms in their children as well as a substantial level of psychological stress.”

The survey included 1,200 coastal residents in Louisiana and Mississippi, most of whom live within 10 miles of the ocean.

One in five reported that their household income had dropped since the spill. Forty-three percent said they had been directly exposed to oil, either at beaches, on their property or in helping with the cleanup. Those who had been exposed were more than twice as likely to report that their children had developed physical or mental health problems since the spill. Also, families that had more concerns about their children’s mental health were more likely to report that they are considering moving.

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For psyches, Gulf is Valdez on ‘fast forward’

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

CNN’s Jessica Ravitz reports that the damage to Gulf communities in the wake of the spill has played out like a faster version of the disintegration of Cordova, Alaska, in the wake of Exxon Valdez. Unfortunately, she writes, that doesn’t mean a quicker route to recovery. It just means a deeper dive into discombobulation and destruction. Ravitz profiles the local victims and those reaching out to help them. In the process, she paints a bleak long-term picture.

Concern about communities sends [environmental sociologist Steven] Picou on an 80-mile drive west to Bayou La Batre, a small fishing town on the opposite side of Mobile Bay. He’s traveling around the Gulf Coast to where people are hurting – to start conversations, impart what he’s learned and teach people how to listen to each other. It’s a response modeled after programs devised in Alaska.

“Unlike a natural disaster where you have a therapeutic community emerging to help you rebuild, we know that in Alaska a corrosive community emerged,” he says. “All of a sudden you have this incredible collapse of community capital.”

He describes how people may self-isolate to cope and how their distrust of others will grow and likely spread. Cynicism about BP, he says, will move on to the federal government, the Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency, local governments, neighbors. Even family.

Ravitz looks at the strong sense of community now present in these places and whether the changes wrought by an influx of new people and money from BP will be permanent. She also reports that domestic violence shelters and hotlines are busier than ever as stress builds and and oil workers, who used to be away from home for weeks at a time, are now stuck on land.

For its part, BP has so far declined a request from Louisiana for $10 million for mental health aid for its residents. Catholic Charities is waiting to hear from BP about another grant that includes about $1.2 million for counseling. Peer-to-peer counseling programs, in which local residents are trained to reach out to other community members, have been launched. One mental health worker says people who were affected by Katrina have been “re-traumatized” by the oil spill.

GAO on Katrina: Fed. grants helpful, not sufficient

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

A pair of Government Accountability Office reports evaluating the progress of ongoing post-Hurricane Katrina rebuilding efforts – one looking at mental health services for children (highlights, full report), the other at organizations providing primary health care (highlights, full report) – find that while federal grants have had an impact in both areas, there is still considerable work to be done.

after-katrina

Photo by AuthenticEccentric via Flickr

In terms of mental health services for children, the GAO reports that progress has been made in recruiting and funding providers — school-based programs have been particularly successful – and in providing the transportation needed by children and families hoping to take advantage of such services. Obstacles include a lack of stable housing for many children and funding shortage looming on the horizon as many hurricane-related grants will dry up in 2010.

In 2007, the Department of Health and Human Services awarded Louisiana a $100 million grant targeted to restore primary care services to low-income populations. The state passed that money on to 25 outpatient providers in the greater New Orleans area. Most of those organizations, the GAO found, used that money to hire additional staff. Many also expanded the services they offered and added new sites or improved existing ones. The report does not come to a conclusion as to the long-term sustainability of the project.

Both GAO reports should serve as reminders that efforts to rebuild the Gulf Coast in the wake of Katrina are ongoing. The reviews show that the GAO hasn’t taken its eye off the affected areas, and neither should journalists.