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Children’s Health Fund (CHF) has provided urgently needed medical assistance via its state-of-the-art mobile medical clinics to victims of Hurricane Andrew in Florida in 1992, and at ground zero in New York City after the terror attacks of 9/11. With this experience gained in working with communities in crisis, CHF responded to the urgent health and public health needs of the Gulf Coast region that resulted from Hurricane Katrina by establishing Operation Assist, a collaboration with the National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP) at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. Areas addressed by Operation Assist included:
Since Operation Assist began in September 2005, the Children’s Health Fund created three permanent projects in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and the Mississippi Gulf. Our national program staff has provided care at over 19,000 patient encounters. Much of the work of these projects involve working with our partners to provide health care to children and families in the FEMA trailer shelters, re-opened schools, housing projects and similar sites where needs continue to be great. We are supporting, with our local partners, the provision of medical homes for children who were medically underserved before Hurricane Katrina and who currently are experiencing a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions.
Operation Assist has not only supported much needed therapy for children through our specially outfitted Community Support and Resiliency Program (CSRP) mobile units but has also provided critically needed professional support and training for mental health providers throughout Mississippi and Louisiana.
In April 2006 and January 2007, CHF and the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University released the results of the first and second stages of a comprehensive rapid health assessment of families displaced due to Hurricane Katrina. The results suggested that these children and families were in the midst of a public health and mental health crisis – chronic diseases are going untreated, clinical-level anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder are on the rise, and the fragile safety nets that had protected these vulnerable populations in the past have been badly shredded by the hurricanes and their aftermath.
The Operation Assist Campaign for Children’s Health has mobilized national leaders in children’s health to call for Congressional hearings and emergency funding for children in the Gulf affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.