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Disasters especially tough on people with disabilities, mental disorders
Date:8/23/2010

WASHINGTON As hurricane season gets into full swing, mental health teams will be ready to respond and help survivors cope with possible devastation. Psychologists have analyzed decades of research and found that disaster response strategies should address the needs of the population affected, specifically those with disabilities and mental disorders.

Research conducted in the aftermaths of the Oklahoma City bombing and Hurricane Katrina also showed that the type of disaster can have a distinct effect on how people respond psychologically. These and other findings are reported in a special section of Rehabilitation Psychology devoted to disaster management and people with disabilities. The journal is published by the American Psychological Association.

"Katrina taught us a harsh lesson about the plight of vulnerable people in times of disaster and national emergency," said the journal's editor, Timothy Elliott, PhD, of Texas A&M University. "Solutions to these problems won't be provided by any single profession or service, which is why this special section brings together colleagues from psychology, special education and rehabilitation administration to provide information that will help us find solutions."

In a study looking at Hurricane Katrina victims, researchers focused on survivors with a wide range of disabilities. Nearly two years after the storm, they surveyed and interviewed disaster case managers and supervisors who provided services to 2,047 individuals with disabilities and their families through the Katrina Aid Today project. They found that considerable barriers to housing, transportation and disaster services were still present two years after the storm. For example, they found that survivors with disabilities were less likely to own homes than survivors without disabilities. This meant that some of the Federal Emergency Management Agency homeowner programs did not help them or, in the case of FEMA trailers, we
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Contact: Audrey Hamilton
ahamilton@apa.org
202-336-5706
American Psychological Association
Source:Eurekalert

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