Saturday, June 30, 2007

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY

They are all here. All three...

Lessons, lessons, lessons.

I am coming up to my 6 month mark on Monday. I first arrived in New Orleans on February 2nd, and have never regretted a moment I have spent here.

I have learned so very much in 6 months. Most of all, how to be "with" people who are suffering. And I am learning as I I move forward through time and space the most important lesson of all for me, discernment.

And this is how the lessons of discernment manifests for me. As with any new relationship we have with others in our lives, after a period of time, the masks fall off.

For me, I have spent years learning how to become as authentic as I possibly can. For those who meet me, well, I think they want to be authentic, and want to be the best people they can be, in time though the masks always slip, and I get a peek into the "real" person behind the persona.

It happened again today. I was shocked again. (I'm just too easily shocked by the shift from persona to person aren't I?) It's okay, trusting and loving my planetary brothers and sisters is not going to change because of these experiences, they have been happening for years to me.

Odd though, how each time feels as if it is the first time.

Helping - serving in the capacity that I am in New Orleans isn't easy. Not having an 'organization' behind me can leave me out in the open so to speak. People can tell me how glad they are to have me in their lives helping, that they believe "God" sent me, etc., and then whatever it is in them that was in an unhealed state before I entered their lives, comes into the picture and the "ugly" comes out. (I believe and have been taught, this occurs for the unhealed within to be "seen" and if the individual chooses, to be healed.)

I have pretty good boundaries around these situations. I am able, after years of experience, to identify what is going on and move through the ensuing crisis or drama with relative calm and ease. Today's experience was a little out of left field, I never saw it coming. I was able through the conversations I had with one particular person I am helping today, identify where in previous encounters there had been deception (through omission) going on and articulated what I perceived. It is a shame for the person who was deceiving me and not telling me the "whole" truth so to speak. I understand, I was disappointed, and I took it personally for a few moments, (oh, so much to learn on my part!). I also found out that not having an organization behind me leaves me open to the criticisms of the organizations, whom I am sending people to that I identify are in need of their services.

It complicates matters, but will not stop me from doing the work I feel called to do.

In this case, an organization (I do not know who) has led whom I was helping to believe that they should not trust me as this individual conveyed to me that "I am not with an organization". I told them that the organization was right. That they had been exploited and deceived in the past, and if they did not feel with certainty, after the time I have spent in their lives and the evidence of my deeds, that they could trust me, then they needed to heed the advice of the organization. I also told them that it would be best that I not proceed, (nor heed anything I had been involved with that may come about in the future for them) with arranging for volunteers to gut or rebuild their home as there were organizations involved now that could arrange this for them.

("Who are you with?" Note: I was with one 'non-profit' organization when I first got here. I found out that the non-profit I was volunteering with and whom I was receiving a small stipend from, was making a 'profit' of 50k for 3 months of work. This experience was not the norm. Most of the non-profits in NOLA are doing incredible work and utilizing their monies to best help those in need. I prefer to work on my own, guided by the Beings of Light and God - Jah. This is how I feel best utilized. I work in the streets identifying needs and guiding people when I can to the resources that are available to help them as they rebuild their lives. I help others with processing their suffering when I perceive that the conversations that they are having with me in the moment, is actually 'processing' on their part. Often, I do the very glamorous work of taking people to appointments and to different agencies. My not being with an organization makes for difficulties some organizations, others tell me that they feel that I am helping in their efforts to best serve those in need. 6 of one - half a dozen of another...)

I assured this individual that I would still be a part of their lives, that I would continue to bring groceries on Saturdays, that I would come and visit, and that I would step back from advocating on their behalf.

(Another brief note: I pick the free groceries from the kind folks from a Slidell church group, in the Lower 9th Ward and deliver them to people in need without vehicles in the Upper 9th Ward. I have found out that the church group receives the food they give away to the community in need from Second Harvest. The bags of food are really nice and I have been told, helpful. Those who receive them are grateful for the good brands and the assortment of foods that are put in the bags.)

So that's the bad and the ugly bits of helping. People are just trying to survive here. I do understand and have great compassion for them.

The good bits? The actual helping. The being "with" those I meet in the moment. The opportunities to be love with my brothers and sisters; to serve. The photographing and the writing of my experiences and of what I see as the suffering occurring here on this blog, is deeply meaningful.

I took a personal day yesterday, I was absolutely exhausted. No phone calls - nothing. I just did what I wanted to do, slept when I needed to, did a few errands. During the course of the day, I observed that even though I was so tired, I had this grin on my face, pretty much all day. And I realized, I am happy. I am content. Exhausted and content. I am getting to be 'me'. And being 'me' means serving and helping those in need.

That's the absolute good. I love the people I meet and see in the streets of New Orleans. I love serving my brothers and sisters.

For these last 6 months I am experiencing what my heart, my soul, has always longed for - a meaningful life - serving those in need in the streets.

I have had enough of these moments in my life lately, where I can observe the fact that PEACE HAS COME UNTO ME.

Thank you My Beloved.

MISS CAROL - NOLA 9th WARD RESIDENT

This is how I came upon Miss Carol.

She was sitting there painting and I felt something in my heart told me to go and speak with her.

I got out of the car and asked her how she was doing. She told me she was "doing alright".

I told her that I was taking pictures in the neighborhood, that I wrote stories and put the pictures on the Internet

She responded, "that's how I used to spend most of my time before Katrina, on the Internet

I asked her, "do you have everything you need? Did you get your Road Home monies and do you have what you need?"

"Yes", she responded. "I got my Road Home money and I have a contractor working with me." (In this case, what I witnessed on the day I met her, the contractor was one man and she and Mr. Anthony, whom I met a little later, were working on the house with him.


I told her as I watched her painting, "You are a pioneer". "As one woman to another, I admire you and what you are doing."

She laughed and looked up at me, "my son tells me the same thing."

"He calls me a pioneer".

"He asks me why I stay in this neighborhood."

"I tell him this is all I have known for 60 years. I don't know anything else. I have nowhere else to go

I then asked her, "can I take your picture?"

A few minutes later, I pulled the car over to the side of the road on Florida Avenue to eat my packed lunch and photograph the closed mental health clinic. As I was sitting there, I knew I did not get the photograph that I was "supposed" to get when I was with Miss Carol. I could just feel it. Something was missing. When I was done eating and photographing the closed Desire Mental Health Clinic, I went back to Miss Carols house.

When I got out of the car I said to her as she was painting, "Hi Miss Carol, I am back again. I did not get the picture I needed." "I need to take a closeup picture of you."

"The only thing is," I said, " I have a digital camera that is like a camera from the 1900's, once I press the button, I have to wait and count 12 seconds and to get the picture."

"Will that be too uncomfortable for you?"

"No," she laughed. And I saw that beautiful smile and her beautiful spirit coming through again. That is what I missed on my previous visit.

This time when I photographed her, there was someone else with her painting. When I was done taking the photograph I introduce myself and he told me with dignity and grace, that his name was "Mr. Anthony Whitfield".

I then asked her, "Miss Carol, what do you want me to write under your picture?"

"I need help."

"I can do a little something, I haven't gotten that old. I have a few skills, I can paint."

"I have lived here for 60 years, there is nowhere else for me to go."


Well Miss Carol, here it is. When you finally get to the library sometime in the future, I have written your message under your picture. I pray that by the time you read this posting, the help you need has already come to you...


IN PEACE

DOORWAYS TO SUFFERING




Imagine...


In a moment, everything you knew as your "life" is over.


There are those of your planetary brothers and sisters who are constitutionally capable of facing this level of devastation and tribulation with fortitude and strength. Many of them have come back to the most stricken areas - such as New Orleans, where the levees broke - and are slowly but surely, rebuilding their lives and their homes.


There are others of your planetary brothers and sisters, who will say "That's it. We are going to start over somewhere else and begin again."

Then there are those of your planetary brothers and sisters who, before this 'moment' in their lives came about, were just hanging on - hanging in there. Some were elderly, disabled mentally or physically, or they were living in poverty, for some they were the 'working poor', their lives spent living in "quiet desperation", or in valiant struggle to give their children and grandchildren a better life.

And in a moment - life as they understood it - ended.

Every "thing" that had emotional content, that helped to form identity, that gave meaning and memory to 'life', was over. Gone. Destroyed.

None of us knows how we will react when faced with this level of suffering. If I may, this is why I believe that great efforts towards" judgement free compassion" with discernment, must be made on our planetary brothers and sisters behalf.

The house in the photo below, has not even been "gutted". We are coming up to the 2nd year anniversary of the flooding of the 9th Ward and there are still people who cannot afford, or who cannot emotionally or psychologically "bear" to face the wreckage of their lives as they once understood them, and their homes lie ungutted - a danger to them and the community.

Help is still very much needed in New Orleans, the 9th Ward (Upper and Lower) New Orleans East, St. Bernard Parish, the coastal parish's, the gulf coast, Mississippi...


Your help is needed.


Consider finding a volunteer organization and spending a week of your 'life' giving to those who through no fault of their own, have lost everything that gave their lives meaning.


If you can't come and physically help out, send money! Consider sending a donation to one of the various organizations who are on the ground helping in meaningful ways to rebuild and sustain those who are suffering.


If you can't do either, then hold the suffering of your planetary brothers and sisters in your hearts and remember them. If you pray, pray for them. If you practice mindful meditation, keep them in your minds throughout your day.



IN PEACE



Post Script: This poster is not affiliated with any non-profit or government agency. This posting was written to advocate on behalf of those still suffering from the damages of Katrina/Rita and the breaking of the levees in New Orleans. Some - not all, local volunteer opportunities web site links and donation web site links are located at the top right hand side of this blog page.


Your organization not listed? Please contact me at postkatrina2007@yahoo.com and let me know.

Friday, June 29, 2007

WHAT PRICE HERO - UPDATES

6/29/07

It has been a long 2 months. Mrs. G has really had it hard. Her suffering has been so difficult to bear watching. Sometimes my work involves helping her to stay trustful in the moment. So many well meaning people promise to help her, they get her hopes up and then let her down. Then there are the long days of waiting with no movement forward. Just waiting.

I met Sarah through an online ad I put on Craigslist on the Katrina "Volunteer" listings. I didn't know how to help Mrs. G and could not do the work that needed to be done on my own. Sarah is with Plenty International and responded that she might be able to help with volunteers. Sarah, Stu, Nate, and even Nate's wife Wendy, jumped into the situation and helped Mrs. G immensely.

They also had a volunteer team from Chicago - the 'Beverly Chicago Team' (a group of artists, musicians and students) come in and the team bought $300 worth of supplies towards the rebuilding effort with monies that they had raised to come to New Orleans to help. They ate food at the E.C. Communities kitchen so that their monies went to buying building supplies for Miss Emma, Ceophus, and Mrs. G. (I wish I was as awake in my early 20's and as philanthropic as they are!) By the time they left, many of the windows were repaired, new cabinets were installed in the kitchen and the most important thing of all - new door locks and door handles were put in the double shotgun, both sides.

Sarah, Stu, and Nate were wonderful with Mrs. G. I watched them interact with her with kindness and gentleness and their efforts brought hope and a little joy to Mrs. G. One day whilst the volunteers were working on the house, the volunteers had on a Ray Charles song and Mrs. G began laughing. Suddenly she was singing and dancing, then she got one of the kids dancing with her. In that precious moment she knew hope and it was beautiful to behold. (Jah Bless, precious sister Sarah, Jah Bless).

For weeks after nothing happened. Slowly, Mrs. G began to trust me more and I was able to help her more when I had a greater picture of what her rebuilding needs were such as what agencies she had contacted and what work needed to still be done.

This week a few miracles in a desert of despair manifested. I found an ad placed by a plumber for volunteering. He has asked not to be identified. He is going to put in as much of Mrs. G's plumbing as he can. This is his first time volunteering and he himself lost everything due to Katrina. He makes Mrs. G laugh with his salty humor and simultaneous love of Jesus. He will be coming to work on Mrs. G's this Saturday and his son will be coming with him. (If you ever read this _____, I thank you so much for your generosity and the hope you brought to Mrs. G.)

The second miracle was even more incredible. Mrs. G had a chance to meet family members she had not seen in some time due to a death in the family this week. A female cousin-in-law has come literally to Mrs. G's rescue and is an electrician and handy-woman (go girl power!!!). She is going to finish the work needed to get Mrs. G into her home. It gets better! She is also going to finish the other side of the shotgun double and move in as a tenant when finished.

When they told me this news, I broke down in tears. I had not recognized how deeply troubled I had been since meeting Mrs. G the night she had been robbed over her future well-being. I felt immense joy and a deep sense of relief that she would have someone nearby her who loved and respected her, someone who would look after her.

Now that her cousin-in-law is in her life, I have time to help others. Yesterday I was out driving around photographing and was guided to meet 3 people who are in need of help.

Praise Jah. Praise God.

Many blessings Mrs. G. It is and was, an honour to serve you.

IN PEACE.

CEOPHUS' FENCE

Ceophus and Mrs. Lewis came back in September of 2006 to rebuild their home in one of the more devastated areas of New Orleans. The lower 9th Ward.

I met Ceophus one day traveling around the 9th Ward with a journalist friend of mine. As we were driving by I saw Ceophus cleaning debris off of bricks with a rusty old hatchet. I pulled over and we all talked awhile. As we were leaving I asked him if he needed any help with anything. I told him I couldn't make any promises but I could get the word out. He said no, they were okay.

Then I noticed his fencing. The fence was pushed in towards the ground from the pressure of the flood waters coming through his neighborhood and yard. In others areas, the fencing was completely gone as the fence poles had been pulled out of the ground by the rushing water and debris.

I asked Ceophus if he would like to get his fence repaired. And he smiled and with atwinkle in his eyes, he said yes, that was something he was hoping to get done.

The next time I saw Ceophus I was able to give him the great news that Sarah, Stu, and Nate who are with Plenty International, would be able to come over with volunteers and help him rebuild his fence. All he would need to do was get the fencing supplies. Then, the news got better, the Beverly Chicago Crew (artist's and musician's) had raised enough funds through a fundraiser before coming to New Orleans and would not only be rebuilding his fence - but they were going to pay for the fencing and supplies. Again, I got to deliver this awesome news to Ceophus and his wife.

And Sarah, Stu, Nate, and the Beverly Chicago crew, did a great job reconstructing and constructing Ceophus' fence. And as a result, an extra sense of security was created in a neighborhood where shots being fired at night and the National Guard patrolling the neighborhood is part of 'life" as they know it.


But Ceophus' story does not end here. Ceophus told me that they could have been moved into their home by now if it weren't for the electrician that they hired and paid $12,000 (they only owe $1000 more), to do their electrical work. The electrician came in November and promised Ceophus and his wife that they would be out of the FEMA trailer and into their house in early February - "before Mardi Gras".


Now the 4th of July is just around the corner and the electrician is no where to be found...

At first the electrician had the decency to take their calls and lie to them. Promising them weekly that he would be there to finish the work he was paid for. Then in the last 2 months he first told them there was nothing he could do until the inspector came (3 weeks ago), even though he has work to finish as he has not fully wired their house yet.

Ceophus and his wife could have been in their house months ago. Now it is summer and they are waiting. The electrician doesn't even bother to take their calls anymore, he sends them right to voice mail, and he doesn't return their calls.

Nothing else in the house can be done until he finishes his electrical work that he was paid $12,000 for. The final bits of sheet rock can not be hung, painting and trim work can't be done and worst of all - Ceophus and his wife, who are so close to getting back in their home - are at his mercy.

You see, they have already spent $12,000 and the work is not complete. If another electrician comes in they have to pay him to do the work they already paid for. Many electricians don't want to come in and follow the work of another electrician (especially in this case - shoddy, unreliable work and ethics) as the inspector will ask the current electrician to fix or redo whatever mistakes the previous electrician made before giving the electrical permit.

I am aware of how Ceophus and his wife (who has delicate health), really try to speak in faithful ways whenever I ask them about how things are going for them. I seem them really working at ways to frame conversations about their frustration and tribulations in meaningful ways, to stay hopeful, and not go into despair, trusting that in the end, God will deliver them justice.

After being through so much and being so close - all Ceophus can do right now is wait and trust that the electrician that they paid pretty much in full, will follow through and finish his work.


(Note: I spoke with Ceophus this past weekend. I was waiting to publish this story as Mrs. Lewis was concerned about the possibility of some form of backlash from the electrician who kept promising to come and finish the job he had been paid for.

They decided to pay another electrician to finish the work (again) so that they could get into their home. I called them with the Attorney Generals phone number 2 days ago so that they could report the electrician that took thousands of dollars of their money and never completed his work. This type of contractor fraud is sadly common place in New Orleans. And it is the senior citizens who are mainly their victims. It is heartbreaking.)


IN PEACE.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

THE MORAL TEST OF A GOVERNMENT


The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life . . .




the children;






those who are in the twilight of life . . . the elderly;





and those who are in the shadow of life . . .







the sick . . .





. . . the needy






and the disabled.




Hubert H. Humphrey (1911 - 1978)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

REMEMBERING THOSE WHO ARE SUFFERING

I was out driving in the city of New Orleans and the 9th Ward yesterday. And with a heavy heart, my eyes took in the suffering around me as I drove through neighborhoods.


In my witnessing of the suffering, the thought occurred to me - how is it in that in the United States, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, so many thousands could continue to suffer in such horrendous "living" conditions?


How is it that in certain areas of New Orleans those "who have" whom are comfortable and live in relative ease, could seem to be totally disconnected from the suffering of their neighbors?



And in that moment I realized that in the microcosm of the experiences of poverty and suffering I witness daily in New Orleans that I was simultaneously expereincing the macrocosm of planetary suffering.



Daily, I am able to witness what I perceive to be the disconnect in consciousness of those whose sufferings are relative compared with the ease of life that they enjoy, from those whose sufferings are heartbreaking visible for all who wish to see - to see .


How can it be that in this "compassionate nation", in just this one area for example - New Orleans, Louisiana - that so many seem to be disconnected from the face that a majority of its city's children do not have anywhere to go to, to relax from very stress filled lives, to play. How can they be unaware that for the working poor and the needy of the city, that for their children, the simplest pleasures to help relieve the stress of their lives, like movie theatres, pools, and playgrounds (many of which are dangerous for children) are unavailable? How can there be such a disconnect within one city, only 2 years after one of the greatest natural disasters this country has ever seen, that the children of the working poor and the needy have few day camp programs, that many children and teens have no where to play or meet but in the streets where a majority of the homes are gutted out shells - and where crime and drugs await them.


Daily I see women and their children walking in the streets to get to the stores in the hot Louisiana sun - desolate streets with gutted out shells of homes, a majority of businesses still closed, many of the bus lines are still down. For these women, getting the simplest items from the corner store is now a task, as many of the "corner stores" are closed and those in need must walk longer distances to get their family's basic needs met.



I wonder dear reader, will you remember them in your minds when you run out to Blockbuster to grab a movie tonight - "getting a movie" is not an option in many areas here. Remember your sisters who are mothers and their plight... as you are dropping off your children to the pool, or taking them to the library or a playground to play.





Will you remember "those who have not" in your hearts when your family is picnicking on the 4th of July?

Will you remember that in New Orleans there are thousands of families that will be stuck in FEMA trailers, depressed, with no place to go, limited funds at best, and must look constantly, at a sight that can only be described as the "corpses of homes" around them.
Will you remember them dear reader when you need to go "pick up a few things" at the store, will you give thanks for how easy it is for you to do so?


In New Orleans, Louisiana, and Mississippi where the storms destroyed whole parish's, counties, and infrastructures - getting to a store to get your basic needs met is now a "task" for the many, as the majority of chain stores, supermarkets, and corner stores are stilled closed.


Will you remember dear reader?


Will you remember as you go through your day, that this level of suffering is not only occurring here in the United States, - that millions of your planetary brothers and sisters - will have nothing to eat today, that they are prisoners within their own neighborhoods and homes, that they are in war zones, they are watching their children die of sickness and malnutrition.


Are your hearts and minds strong enough to bear the thought that each day millions of your planetary brothers and sisters are "dying" to get out of this living hell on earth.


Do not let the scope of the suffering of your planetary brothers and sisters overwhelm you...


All that you need to do is remember them.


For your hearts - if you remember those who are suffering in your minds - will guide you.



Here is my gift to you as to how to "be with the suffering" of others:


Before your heart can guide you as to what you can "do"

you must first make a conscious decision,

to remember them.





Prayers for the suffering...


IN PEACE.

Monday, June 25, 2007

WHERE THERE IS SORROW..




"Where there is sorrow, there is holy ground."

Oscar Wilde

Sunday, June 24, 2007

"PTSD"--"NIMBY" - LOCAL NEW ORLEANS RESIDENTS SEEK TO KEEP PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL CLOSED


THE SITUATION: The New Orleans mental health infrastructure is in crisis, due to a surge in PTSD and other mental health issues following the greatest natural disaster in the history of the United States and the largest Psychiatric/Behavioural Health Hospital Tulane-DePaul, remains closed. In the midst of this region-wide crisis, it seems that there is a grass-roots effort in a socially upscale neighborhood surrounding the Tulane-DePaul behavioral hospital, to keep the hospital closed.



NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard)


Within a week I have watched as more and more signs are boldly put on lawns in this wealthy neighborhood. I think to myself as I photograph their beautiful homes with the "NO" signs on them "It doesn't seem to matter to this group of people that the hospital has served this community for over a hundred years or that thousands in the city are in crisis.
"NIMBY" syndrome seems to be spreading regardless.


PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder


Whatever the source of the problem, some people with PTSD repeatedly relive the trauma in the form of nightmares and disturbing recollections during the day. They may also experience sleep problems, depression, feeling detached or numb, or being easily startled. They may lose interest in things they used to enjoy and have trouble feeling affectionate. They may feel irritable, more aggressive than before, or even violent:






Seeing things that remind them of the incident may be very distressing, which could lead them to avoid certain places or situations that bring back those memories. Anniversaries of the event are often very difficult."





PTSD can occur at any age, including childhood. The disorder can be accompanied by depression, substance abuse, or anxiety. Symptoms may be mild or severe--people may become easily irritated or have violent outbursts. In severe cases they may have trouble working or socializing. Symptoms - Posttraumatic Stress Disorder





They report ongoing mental health stresses among all levels of the population, severe fatigue setting in among caregivers, a health care system that continues to be ignored by politicians in Baton Rouge and Washington—all resulting in a city that is demonstrating widespread mental and emotional disorders similar to PTSD and a variety of complicating physical issues.



In short: New Orleans is getting sicker, fast.

African-American ministers, accustomed to providing spiritual guidance to their congregations, are helping members cope with serious mental and emotional disorders nearly a year after Hurricane Katrina hit.


"It is, at times, overwhelming," said Rev. Larry Campbell, assistant pastor of Israelite Baptist Church in the Central City neighborhood. He has counseled worshipers with substance abuse problems and suicidal thoughts, referring some to mental health professionals, when possible.





"There's a sense of hopelessness as it relates to, 'When are we going to get this city back to where it was?"'



New Orleans was a social service nightmare before Katrina. It's mental health infrastructure was likely underfunded like many other inner city services. But the results of the devastating trauma of Katrina spawned flood, people are stressed beyond their ability to cope. Psychiatric beds have shrunk by 80% while many professionals have abandoned the city along with half it it's residents.




It's often those without alternatives who are left to return, to conditions worse than they ever were.


…the most serious health problems directly attributable to the storm have been mental, not physical. In the four months between Aug. 29 and the end of 2005, the Orleans Parish coroner’s office “conservatively” estimates that the suicide rate tripled.”



"People with pre-existing conditions that are made worse by the stress of living here after the storm. "There is no doubt in my mind that Katrina is still killing our residents." Orleans Parish coroner Dr. Frank Minyard said this week.




"Old people who are just giving up."

"People who are killing themselves because they feel they can't go on.”



(After taking this picture I became aware of a man sleeping in this gutted out house.)


Mayor Ray Nagin.





‘Facing Crisis'
Frustration, despair, substance abuse, depression, suicide.




Due to a severe shortage in emergency room and hospital beds, some psychiatric patients in need of chronic mental health care are being housed in jails. Police officers and paramedics are also being forced to remain with psychiatric patients until beds become available.

Charity used to have nearly 100 psychiatric beds, in addition to a 40-bed crisis intervention unit where doctors could evaluate mental patients when police picked them up on the street. The Charity doctors knew many of the city's mentally ill by name and could take custody of them minutes after police brought them to the emergency room.


(Charity: De Paul-Tulane Hospital - "the neighbors view")


With that crisis intervention unit now closed, …officers have to escort mental patients to the emergency rooms at private and community hospitals… The police department is transporting about 185 to 200 mental patients per month. The department handled 207 psychiatric patients in March, the most ever in one month. Our police are spending an enormous amount of man hours baby-sitting mental health patients because of the inability to get them admitted to the hospitals.” Terry Ebbert, NOLA Homeland Security Director "




Today, the largest psychiatric ward in the region is at Orleans Parish Prison.








We're about to head full-force into the hurricane season, and invariably the country will spend a few moments revisiting the stricken Gulf Coast region, but particularly New Orleans. …We'll hear questions about levies, rebuilding and the city's economy."





What you're unlikely to hear about, though, is the mental health of the city's residents and the treatment crisis still brewing nearly two years after Katrina.





We face a tremendous challenge now with a greater need for inpatient and outpatient mental health services, an increase in the number of people suffering depression as a result of their loss, the devastation that surrounds them, and a deficit of 300 psychiatric hospital beds.


Perhaps it is no surprise that post-traumatic stress disorder is 10 times higher in New Orleans than in the general public.



…Interim or temporary mental health response is not adequate for this population.





Hurricane Katrina was the most significant natural disaster to strike the United States.





Thousands of people were exposed to destruction, human violence and desperate circumstances.



“The mental health situation in New Orleans remains atrocious."






Storm survivors are dying from the effects of both psychological and physical stress, ranging from the dust and mold still in dwellings to financial problems to fear of crime, health experts and officials say.



"We lost the whole mental health infrastructure in the storm.” "It was inadequate before. Then we lost the clinics, the hospitals, the staff and the administration.". Compounding the problem: More people are suffering from mental ailments.





"The city has seen a dramatic increase in depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress"

THE SITUATION:


You may find upon the reading of these articles that some of them are nearly 2 years old - the information contained in them is not only prescient but relevant to the situation on the ground in New Orleans.


Articles:

Churches battling post-Katrina depression

Nagin demands state provide mental health services

Post-Katrina report: Mental health system deficient in Louisiana PTSD Among New Orleans Residents

New Orleans still suffering from Katrina

Nurses Ask: Does New Orleans Suffer from PTSD? - Local nurses sound public health alarm on conditions in city’s hospitals and clinics, long-term effect on residents, caregivers

Sinking in New Orleans

A City in Crisis - Mental Health in New Orleans - DAILY KOS

Post-Katrina depression triples New Orleans suicide rate

Mental Health Crisis in New Orleans Worsens

New Orleans Mental Health Infrastructure Is Overwhelmed



TOWARDS THE SOLUTION:


Program aiming to fill health care worker shortage
Tuition-free training offered at Delgado



IN PEACE.


UPDATE August 15, 2007

"Leaping to his death from an ambulance, Jeremy Davis is the latest victim of our crippled mental health care system"