Disaster response: Community mental health service capacity in the USA
Following a natural disaster such as a major hurricane or flood, the ability of community mental health facilities to respond during the recovery stage of the disaster with adequate resources and capacity to meet community needs is critical to the recovery process. Community mental health agencies have a critical role to play in preparing for and responding to large-scale disasters, such as hurricanes Katrina and Rita of the 2005 storm season. The timely provision of mental health services to disaster victims has long been recognised as an important component of effective emergency management. In addition to a discussion of the findings from previous research studies conducted throughout the USA addressing the issue of mental health community response following a disaster, this paper will present the survey findings of a retrospective research study designed to assess the status of emergency disaster preparedness and client service capacity at community mental health facilities prior to and following the Katrina/Rita disaster in the southern USA. This discussion will also provide a qualitative assessment of the responses provided by community mental health administrators one year after Katrina/Rita, when they were asked to identify the resources needed by their facilities to effectively address future disasters.