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A comparison of statewide emergency mental health preparedness plans for "high-impact" 9/11 states:Communication assumptions, mechanisms, and strategies

Thomas Gordon, PhD1, Sheryl Burt Ruzek, PhD, MPH2, Brenda F. Seals, PhD, MPH3, Sarah Bauerle Bass, PhD, MPH2, and Alice Hausman, PhD4. (1) Public Health Department, Temple University, Vivacqua Hall, Room 301J, Philadelphia, PA 19122, 215-204-1366, tfgordon@temple.edu, (2) Department of Public Health, College of Health Professions, Temple University, 1700 N. Broad Street, 304 Vivacqual Hall PO Box 2843, Philadelphia, PA 19122-0843, (3) MPH Program, Practice and Research Coordinator, Department of Public Health, Temple University, 301-C Vivacqua Hall, 1700 N Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19122, (4) Temple University, Public Health Department, Vivacqua Hall, Room 304, Philadelphia, PA 19122

BACKGROUND:  The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, created lasting fears, anxiety and uncertainty.  Mental health services in the areas surrounding these tragedies were overwhelmed in the aftermath of the disaster and current needs remain acute.  In response, the CDC and other government agencies created funding mechanisms that prompted the development of detailed mental health emergency preparedness plans for every state.  METHODS:  This paper presents the results of a pilot study of mental health preparedness plans for the four states nearest to the two attacks including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.  States that were more directly affected by the 9/11 terrorist attacks might foster plans reflecting their experience with this tragedy.  A content analysis of these plans to date was performed comparing the four states on mental health coordination and communication efforts.  RESULTS:  The plans differed on key components including: (1) Communication assumptions about the states' population distributions; (2) Mechanisms for communicating with diverse populations; and, (3) Communication strategies adopted for effectively dealing with mental health needs.  CONCLUSIONS:  The paper concludes by identifying: (1) Communication areas of strength in the state plans; (2) Communication areas needing more attention in overall strategic planning; (3) Areas of needed research in the development of specific mental health communication strategies targeted for at-risk individuals.  Creating comprehensive mental health emergency preparedness plans is a critical strategy for states and municipalities to effectively respond to community needs.  Such plans need to reflect “best practices” to maximize services in unpredictable and uncontrollable events. .



Learning Objectives: The session attendees will be able to

Keywords: Mental Health, Health Communications

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Theory and Research in Health Communication

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA