USA Today reports there are only 20 public and 20 private psych beds for adults in NOLA in an article on the “dire” mental health care crisis in the city. There is also this…
Stephens had a staffer review death notices
published in the local paper since Katrina.Before the storm, there
were fewer than 900 death notices a month, the review found. Now, it’s
about 1,300 a month, he says.
The next step, still unfinished, is figuring out
how many of the deaths are stress-related — suicides, strokes, heart
attacks. Stephens says those figures will give him leverage to seek
state and federal help. “We know the numbers are up; we think they’re
way up,” he says. “But we don’t have good data.”
Even without numbers, mental health workers say
they know there’s a crisis. “We hear anecdotal accounts of hospitals
turning away people who come in seeking mental health services because
they’re not able to treat them,” says Mark Townsend, an LSU psychiatry
professor who sees patients at NOAH.
Townsend says many people with chronic mental
health conditions are coming into hospitals, trying in vain to get
medication because their regular psychiatrists have not returned. He’s
also heard of families bringing loved ones to hospitals for commitment,
only to turn away after learning that their relative would be sent out
“It’s really hard to capture in words how dire the situation is,” Townsend says. “We need help.”
And right here in the library were with a group of folks who are
sending post cards to folks who have been affected by Katrina, cards of
hope, an opportunity for a citizen here to say to somebody in the New
Orleans area, we care about you, people are thinking about you — and
all in the hopes of lifting somebody’s spirit.
And what will you send George to lift spirits? Mental health care workers would certainly be a nice start.