Hurricane Katrina: Barriers to Mental Health Services for Children Persist in Greater New Orleans, Although Federal Grants Are Helping to Address Them

GAO-09-563 Published: Jul 13, 2009. Publicly Released: Jul 20, 2009.
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The greater New Orleans area--Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard parishes--has yet to fully recover from the effects of Hurricane Katrina. As a result of the hurricane and its aftermath, many children experienced psychological trauma, which can have long-lasting effects. Experts have previously identified barriers to providing and obtaining mental health services for children. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other federal agencies have supported mental health services for children in greater New Orleans through various programs, including grant programs initiated in response to Hurricane Katrina. GAO was asked to study the federal role in addressing barriers to these services in greater New Orleans. In this report, GAO (1) identifies barriers to providing and to obtaining mental health services for children in greater New Orleans, and (2) describes how federal programs, including grant programs, address such barriers. To do this work, GAO used a structured interview and a written data collection instrument to gather views on barriers from 18 state and local stakeholder organizations selected on the basis of experts' referrals and the organizations' roles in children's mental health. To learn how federal programs address these barriers, GAO reviewed documents from and interviewed federal, state, and local officials involved in providing mental health services to children. GAO's work included a site visit to greater New Orleans.

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