When Hurricane Laura hit in late August, the mental health status of many local residents was already compromised by the stressors brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Tanya McGee, Executive Director of Imperial Calcasieu Human Services Authority, just a few months ago, coroners in the five-parish region of Southwest Louisiana reported the highest deaths by overdose and deaths by suicide ever recorded in Imperial Calcasieu.
“Going into this disaster, we already had a very fragile community when it came to mental health, substance abuse, developmental disabilities services,” said McGee.
McGee said that most people are in “response mode” right now. “But that anxiety, that PTSD, that trauma is going to come,” she said. “In fact, a lot of people are already reporting that just seeing the blue roofs back is bringing up some PTSD in regard to Hurricane Rita.” She said it’s really important that everyone be not only mindful of their physical health, but of their mental health status.
McGee said to also be mindful of friends and family as the recovery process is underway. “You might not see or sense the levels of depression and anxiety that may come on, but it may be something that’s going to have long-lasting effects,” she said. “Let’s just take care of each other as a community.”
McGee said the area’s behavioral health system has taken a hit from Laura along with all other health care providers. In-patient psychiatric units are closed, as is the authority’s 46-bed substance abuse facility, which has significant damage. She recommended that anyone in dire need of those services should be mindful they are unavailable in the region for the time being. Four out of the authority’s clinics are open and operational.
The Lake Charles clinic is located next door to Moss-Memorial Hospital on Kirkman Street and is running on full generator power with its pharmacy open. Clinics in Allen, Beauregard and Jeff Davis parishes are also open. The Sulphur clinic suffered damage as did the one in Cameron.
McGee said anyone in need of mental health, substance abuse or developmental disability services can call 475-3100, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for counseling. Around the clock counseling services can also be accessed by dialing 2-1-1. Those in need of medication should contact their provider first. If there is no response, contact Imperial Calcasieu Health Services for assistance.
The Imperial Calcasieu Human Services Authority is the largest behavioral health care provider in the five-parish region that includes Calcasieu, Cameron, Allen, Beauregard and Jefferson Davis. The authority receives state and federal funding and serves those with private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid, and can provide free services to the indigent.