OAKLAND, Calif. — Kaiser Permanente today donated $1 million to support those affected by Hurricane Harvey. The contribution from the nation’s largest integrated health system will aid in immediate relief and recovery efforts, as well as help address mental health and wellness needs of those impacted by the devastating rains and flooding.
Half of the donation will go to the American Red Cross for immediate needs in affected areas, such as medical care, food, shelter and clothing. The other half will go to Mental Health America of Greater Houston, to provide mental health and emotional support for survivors, first responders and others affected by the storm.
“Our hearts go out to the thousands of people who’ve been displaced by this hurricane — especially those most vulnerable — who’ve lost their homes, their life’s belongings and in some cases, their loved ones,” said Bechara Choucair, MD, senior vice president and chief community health officer for Kaiser Permanente. “We felt it was critically important to support mental health services in addition to relief aid. We know that beyond the physical damage of this storm, those affected will feel the mental and emotional impact of this storm long after the waters recede.”
Kaiser Permanente, as a not-for-profit organization, works closely with community partners to provide health care for low-income individuals to improve health for people living in underserved communities. In 2016, Kaiser Permanente invested $2.5 billion in support of community health.
“We are deeply concerned for the mental health of those affected by Hurricane Harvey,” said Don Mordecai, MD, Kaiser Permanente national leader for mental health and wellness. “People affected by tragedy can experience fear, anxiety, sadness and trauma. Those effects can linger long after the disaster, and for some people, may not surface until weeks or months after it. We want to give mental-health agencies in the impacted areas the needed resources to extend support to all who need it.”
Kaiser Permanente has also long been committed to advancing mental health. Through partnerships and grants, Kaiser Permanente works to reduce stigma, increase awareness and improve access to care.
“As we focus on the recovery and rebirth of Houston’s Gulf Coast region, I am grateful to live and work in a city that understands a healthy community is a strong community, and that its strength includes the mental health of its residents,” said Susan Fordice, president and CEO of Mental Health America of Greater Houston. “It’s our responsibility as a community-serving organization to be responsive to the ongoing mental health needs of our children, families and all individuals who have been impacted by Hurricane Harvey. I want to thank Kaiser Permanente for their help and concern. We will work collectively with community partners to establish a protective barrier of support and a lifeline of hope that benefits everyone whose lives have been touched by the storm. We know the mental health community will be called to respond to significant needs in many different ways over this region’s vast geography for a very long time.”
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 11.8 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal Permanente Medical Group physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health.
Disaster’s Toll Over Time
Hurricane Katrina in 2005 is the most recent natural disaster in the U.S. that approaches the scale of Hurricane Harvey. Katrina’s damage in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast was not limited to deaths, physical injuries and property. Among survivors, mental and emotional conditions persisted long after the storm:
• A rapid-needs assessment of returning New Orleans residents conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in October 2005 revealed that more than 50 percent of respondents showed signs of a “possible” need for mental health treatment ( Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2006; Weisler et al., 2006).
• A study of families living in FEMA-subsidized hotels or trailers conducted in February of 2006 reported high rates of disability among caregivers of children, due to depression, anxiety and other psychiatric problems ( Abramson & Garfield, 2006). The survey also yielded high rates of reports of chronic health problems (34 percent) and numerous new mental health problems (nearly 50 percent) among children in these families.
• Another cross-sectional survey of 222 survivors found that over half (52 percent) continued to experience poor mental and physical health 15 months after Katrina ( Kim, Plumb, Gredig, Rankin, & Taylor, 2008).