LSU Psychiatry Awarded Grant for Terrorism & Disaster Resilience

LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry has been competitively awarded a $3 million grant over five years by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to build the Terrorism and Disaster Coalition for Child and Family Resilience. It was the only grant focusing on terrorism and disasters funded.

“The purpose of the Coalition is to create effective partnerships in disaster-prone regions to enhance national capacity to prepare and respond to the unique needs of children, adolescents, and families after disasters and terrorism,” said principal investigator Howard Osofsky, MD, PhD, Chair of Psychiatry at LSU Health New Orleans.

The proposed project will build on and adapt the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) model including Help Kids Cope, a digital application that allows for information sharing following various types of disasters. It will focus on general post-trauma support to a wide population of children and adolescents through schools, community agencies and religious institutions as well as the identification of high-risk children, adolescents and families who have experienced extreme exposure and losses, high levels of current stress and distress and developmental risk.

In assisting NCTSN with developing and disseminating interventions to support children, families and communities affected by terrorism and disasters, the Coalition will address six goals during the five years of funding:

  • To create three geographically diverse coalitions among key stakeholders within disaster-prone areas to enhance regional behavioral health response for children and families after disasters and terrorism – in the Gulf South, Northeast and  Midwest
  • To develop enhanced training curricula in evidence-based assessments and interventions for post-terrorism and disaster-response activities for children and families
  • To create and conduct training sessions and communities of practice using the existing and adapted training materials within the targeted coalition regions. Training sessions will be geared to identified gaps to support child-serving providers mobilized during a terrorist or disaster event
  • To develop and evaluate effective strategies for enhanced social messaging and communications about the impact of disasters on children and families and evidence-based coping strategies
  • To create resources for child-serving providers, parents and youth to equip them with information and strategies for preparedness and response to terrorism and disasters. Materials on post-terrorism and disaster long-term recovery and resilience issues will be created to enhance regional ability to provide appropriate and effective services over time.
  • To provide consultation and support to the coalitions and other partners in their efforts to implement and sustain disaster-recovery programs in the aftermath of such events.

Implementation includes incorporating ongoing surveillance strategies to modify recovery efforts for diverse, affected subpopulations over time.

“Disasters, both natural and technological, touch the lives of millions of children each year,” notes Dr. Osofsky. “While much of the response and recovery efforts have been geared toward adult survivors, the importance of recognizing and responding to the needs of children and families has received increased attention in recent years. For response and recovery from terrorist events, even less is known and fewer materials are available for recovery and to support resilience.”

The grant starts October 1, 2016, although work has already begun in the Gulf South as LSU Health New Orleans’ Department of Psychiatry has been on the ground working in areas of Louisiana affected by the Great Flood of 2016.