Legacy of Katrina: The Impact of a Flawed Recovery on Vulnerable Children of the Gulf Coast

Despite economic and infrastructure growth in the Gulf region after Hurricane Katrina, one item remains unrepaired five years later: children’s mental health.

At least 20,000 children who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina have serious emotional disorders or behavioral issues, or face housing instability, researchers found.

The report said that being sent to shelters, being isolated from the community and the slow rates of overall disaster recovery have combined to harm children’s mental health. Displaced children were 4.5 times more likely to display symptoms of Serious Emotional Disturbance  – a disorder resulting in functional impairment,  among other struggles – than were children prior to Katrina. Other results include academic problems, such as having to repeat grades.

The authors warn of “worrisome consequences for the future” and urges more assistance for families. More than half of parents who sought professional help for their children’s problems did not receive it, the report says. The authors recommend that preparations be made in the Gulf region to make enhanced mental health services immediately available in the future.

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