Mental Health Services Are Priority for Relocated Evacuees

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Counselors from St. Vincent Catholic Charities along with the American Red Cross, private practitioners, and the Tri-County Mental Health Board are prepared to provide both short and long-term mental health care should victims of Hurricane Katrina come to Mid-Michigan.

Dr. Joan Jackson Johnson, a private practice psychologist and member of the Tri-County Mental Health Board, says many evacuees' stories are horrendous. Some nearly escaped death; others are still searching for lost loved ones. Johnson says their experiences can lead to both acute and chronic post traumatic stress disorder.

Symptoms include intense anxiety leading to the inability to sleep or depression. The effects can be long-lasting and debilitating, which is why mental healthcare is vital.

"People need to tell their stories. They need people who are capable of helping them process their experiences," said Johnson.

Cheval Breggins of St. Vincent Catholic Charities said if evacuees come here, mental services will be provided immediately and for years to come. He said no one will slip through the cracks.