The Department of Health will hold a Behavioral Health Summit to address the significant mental health and addictive disorder needs arising from the BP disaster and oil spill along the Louisiana coast. The summit comes on the heels of the release this week of a Gallup poll showing a 25 percent increase in depression among Gulf Coast residents since the disaster.

The event, which begins at 8:30 a.m. Friday, Oct., 1 at the Frederick J. Sigur Civic Center and Ballroom in Chalmette, will feature local, state and national health experts and focus on the response and recovery phases of the crisis. Panel discussions will highlight the observations of local and first-tier responders linked with comments and discussion from clinical professionals.

The Behavioral Health Summit is a partnership between LDH and the many non-profit and local government agencies that are on the front lines of the communities impacted by the oil spill. They include Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans, LSU Health Sciences Center – Department of Psychiatry, Florida Parishes Human Services Authority, Jefferson Parish Human Services Authority, Metropolitan Human Services District and South Central Louisiana Human Services Authority.

"We are grateful that so many partners have recognized the need to work together to avert further crisis among our communities – the crisis that comes from desperation and uncertainty after a disaster like we are still facing," said LDH Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein. "We must be clear: Just because the leak has been sealed, there is still much recovery work to be done to give families their lives back. A critical component of that work is meeting their behavioral health needs during this time of continued turmoil."

The summit is expected to draw local practitioners, social services, faith-based, primary health and behavioral health agencies, local individual mental health and substance abuse licensed practitioners, as well as representative of the affected political subdivisions.

Highlights of the summit include:

Panel Discussion about emotional stressors currently being experienced by those affected by the oil spill
Discussion about best practice models for mental health and substance abuse interventions
Cumulative trauma, post-Katrina and oil spill
Socio-cultural acceptance of mental health and addiction services
First responders and Peer mentoring
Suicide prevention strategies for older adults
Substance abuse intervention
Kathy Kliebert, assistant secretary for the Office of Behavioral Health said this summit is the first of what she hopes will be many events like it in the future.

"We expect that this summit will be the first in a series of behavioral health summits that help service providers give the best help to citizens affected by the oil spill right now and also those who may be impacted in the future," Kliebert said. "Bringing this level of expertise together ensures we’re getting quality care out to the people who need it the most."

For more information about the summit, contact Garcia Bodley at (225) 342-9952 or Cassandra Wilson at (225) 342-3889.

The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow DHH’s blog at www.myhealthla.org, Twitter at http://twitter.com/La_Health_Dept and search for the Louisiana Department of Health on Facebook.

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