Hurricane Harvey affected Houston and neighboring areas in a profound way. Flooding, property destruction, homelessness and multiple other stressors occurred during and in the aftermath, affecting millions. Not surprisingly, disasters such as this can bring on marked distress, contributing to the onset of mental health problems and/or exacerbating pre-existing concerns.
In response to the significant behavioral mental and emotional health needs related to Harvey, faculty at Baylor College of Medicine’s Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, led by Drs. Eric Storch, Bella Schanzer, Asim Shah, Elizabeth McIngvale, and Laurel Williams, in close collaboration with Harris Health and Texas Children's Hospital, have embarked on a number of behavioral health interventional approaches to help those affected by Harvey.
Project Reach, supported by the Greater Houston Community Foundation, is a collaboration between Baylor, Harris Health, and Texas Children's Hospital to address access to behavioral health services in multiple ways.
Three therapists are in place within the Harris Health system who are specifically dedicated to helping those exposed to Hurricane Harvey struggling with depression, anxiety, or other behavioral health concerns. These therapists are using an evidence-based form of psychotherapy called the Unified Protocol, which is a cutting-edge transdiagnostic cognitive behavioral approach. Child and adult psychiatric services are expanded to provide much needed psychiatric care, as well as to consult with primary care providers in supporting their patients. For more information regarding this program, call (832) 206-4034.
Reach Out Texas
Expanding outside of Houston, individuals in the Golden Triangle region are being served in a variety of ways through generous funding by Rebuild Texas. In a collaboration with Texas Children's, Dr. Williams and Storch are providing psychiatry and psychotherapy services to those affected. Dr. Williams will be collaborating with local school districts in this region to provide services to children and their families in frontline settings. Dr. Storch will be providing a child and adolescent version of the Unified Protocol, with consultation from colleagues Drs. Jill Ehrenreich-May and Alison Salloum, directly into individuals’ homes to facilitate access and reduce treatment barriers. These programs will work synergistically together with Texas Children's faculty Dr. Julie Kaplow, who will develop a learning collaborative focused on educating professionals in schools and the community on addressing trauma and grief.
Drs. Storch, Schanzer, and Shah are directing a multi-faceted intervention approach for adults funded by the Red Cross. Like its child counterpart, this program involves providing direct intervention via telepsychiatry and psychotherapy to individuals affected by Hurricane Harvey who reside in the Golden Triangle. The goal is to reduce barriers to care and improve access. In addition, there will be consultation available with primary care providers to help facilitate psychiatric treatment access.
Dr. McIngvale is leading an innovative platform supported by the Red Cross in collaboration with Drs. Schanzer and Storch, as well as with community providers. This collaboration involves the development of peer-led interventions within religious settings. The overarching goal is to improve access to services by helping individuals learn how to support their peers and offer guidance for detection and coping strategies of post-trauma stress.
Drs. Shah, Nizete-Ly Valles, Asna Matin, Stephanie Hernandez and Sophia Banu led a symposium for area educators on identifying and addressing symptoms of post-Hurricane Harvey traumatic stress in children and adults. Counselors, psychologists, social workers and educators from more than 20 school districts and county agencies signed up for the October 2017 symposium, which focused on practical advice and age-appropriate solutions to meet the immediate and longer-term mental health needs of the community, whether recovering from a storm or coping with other traumas.
In addition to the core faculty members leading these efforts, other key team members include Drs. Sophie Schneider, Michelle Davis, Syed Iqbal, and Lawrence Chiu; and Lynn Hana, Sandra Cepeda, Roxanne Deams, Stacy Baynham, and Alana Stanley.
Collectively, these projects represent efforts to improve access to the best behavioral health care possible for all individuals, and to support those who were impacted by Hurricane Harvey. In addition to the projects listed, Baylor faculty continue to engage in community advocacy to increase support, resources and awareness of mental health post Harvey. See the public service announcement featuring our faculty members that runs across Houston channels.