As backward as Louisiana can be in many ways, one of the jewels in its crown has been a medical infrastructure that any state could envy.
New Orleans alone is home to two medical schools, Tulane and Louisiana State University, and the Charity Hospital System has been providing health
care to the poor of Louisiana for about a century, besides being a premier teaching hospital and one of the best trauma centers in all the world.
Ochsner Hospital in Jefferson Parish just outside New Orleans is world renowned for cardiac care among other things.
I could go on.
Katrina changed all that and now that mental health issues are beginning to emerge in large numbers among the survivors, the health care system is
burdened beyond its capacity to cope.
I received my clinical training at Touro Infirmary and Charity Hospital and have always been proud of the intensity of that training. It hurts in
many ways to see that destroyed.
When I left New Orleans, I swore I'd never return. Now, perhaps, there is a need to serve. I'll have to give it some thought.
Sixteen months after Hurricane Katrina tore this city apart, a hidden sort of damage is emerging. Local officials see it in reports of suicides,
strokes and stress-related deaths. They see it in the police calls for fights and domestic violence. They see it in the long waiting lists for
psychiatric care that they have no way to provide.
These days, life in the Big Easy isn't easy at all. Everyone from the mayor to the people staffing the public health clinics sees it: New Orleans is
facing an unprecedented mental health crisis — and the city has no way to deal with it.
The obvious problems only fuel the more subtle ones. About half of the city's 450,000 pre-Katrina residents have yet to return, according to the
mayor's office, and entire neighborhoods remain filled with boarded-up homes and businesses. For those who have come back, everything is hard, and
the challenges seem endless: lining up contractors, getting basic services restored, even finding neighborhood places to buy groceries, clothes and
Now, many fear the situation could worsen. "This couple of months is our most critical time period. … New Year's, Mardi Gras, Easter, and if
people need (mental health) services right now, there really is almost no place to go," says Kevin Stephens, director of the city Health Department.
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[edit on 2007/1/16 by GradyPhilpott]