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Faces from the Field: Donna D. Usner, ACE, LCSW-BACS

by Caitlin McFeely, Communications Associate, Children's Health Fund

This Saturday, August 28, marks the 5th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  Shortly after the hurricane ravished the Gulf Coast, CHF’s mobile clinics were on the ground, providing health care for the children and families in the region.  Three permanent Children's Health Fund programs, in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Mississippi Gulf Coast, were launched and continue to provide health and mental health care to children and families living in the Gulf Coast region today.

Today, we’re talking to Donna Usner, who has been with the New Orleans Children’s Health Project since the program launched after Hurricane Katrina.  Enjoy!

Caitlin (C): Donna, thanks for interviewing with us!  How long have you been working with CHF? 

Donna: I began work with NOCHP not long after Katrina, in 2006.

C: What made you want to work for this type of organization?

Donna: As part of a career goal, I’ve always worked with children and families during a time of crisis. CHF’s work fit with my personal mission. Prior to Katrina, I worked in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at a local hospital that flooded and under great controversy would not reopen. As a result, I was forced to write the next chapter in my life. I met some of the CHF team in Baton Rouge and they talked me into doing a mental health needs assessment for the New Orleans area with the intent to have a Community Support and Resiliency Unit arrive the following spring.

C: What is your favorite part about working on the mobile clinic?

Donna: The mobile clinics I work on are state of the art clinics that truly remove barriers to accessing quality health care (physical and mental health care). The families we meet are my ‘favorite part’ of the work but the fact that each day is different… one never knows what to expect next on the mobile unit J! I also enjoy my work at a local maternity home done in conjunction with the mobile care clinics.

C: In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges children and families in New Orleans are experiencing in accessing health care?  How are you addressing these challenges?

Donna: Even pre-Katrina, there were disparities in health care in this area. Post-Katrina, even those who can ‘afford’ to pay, struggle to access quality sub-specialty care. By working as part of a medical home, including pediatricians with co-location of child psychiatry and a bi-lingual mental health staff that includes licensed social workers, licensed addiction counselors, care managers and a health educator I feel we make an effort to address this disparity.

C: What are some unique programs or events that your program has to offer?

Donna: In a recently published survey, Louisiana children rank 49th out of 50 in health issues. Through education, well child checks, resiliency workshops, health fairs, social skills trainings, parenting workshops, depression screenings and obesity screenings with follow up care, NOCHP is making an effort to move LA up in this ranking one child at a time.

C: What’s your favorite thing to do when not working?

Donna: I love to sail or anything out on or near the water.  I’ve enjoyed coaching girl’s baseball and being a Girl Scout leader for 13 years. I also like spending time playing with my pets, reading, gardening (anything short of laundry).

C:  I agree about the laundry!!  Thanks, Donna!