Mental health, Superstorm sandy, substance abuse
Anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder
Superstorm Sandy continues to have a lasting impact on those in the most impacted counties. A new data study conducted by Healthcare Quality Strategies Inc. and reported last month in the Asbury Park Press documents the impact on for behavioral health.
These include but are not limited to:
- alcohol and substance abuse
- sleep disturbances,
- depression and
- post-traumatic stress disorder.
According to the Asbury Park Press, in Monmouth and Ocean counties, the counties hardest hit by Sandy, the numbers were even higher.
Healthcare Quality Strategies Inc. reviewed Medicare claims data in the year before and after Sandy and found:
- Depression screenings were double in the year after Sandy for the 10 counties impacted by the storm. Monmouth County’s screenings were up more than 131 percent, while Ocean County’s was up nearly 66 percent.
- Alcohol and substance abuse were up 8 percent over the 10-county area, while it was up 11.6 percent in Monmouth County and 18.5 percent in Ocean County.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder was up nearly 8 percent in the 10-county area, with Monmouth County falling in line with the overall average and Ocean County a tick higher at almost 9 percent. The numbers in some communities reviewed were even higher.
- Anxiety disorders were up 5.8 percent across the 10-county area. In Ocean County, claims for anxiety disorders were up nearly twice the overall average at 11.2 percent. Monmouth County was up about 3 percent.
And even those who reviewed the data suspect that the numbers, while having increased, might still be an understatement of the mental and behavioral health needs left in the wake of Sandy.
Quoting from the Asbury Park Press article.
Michele Green-Ferrante, program director at the Mental Health Association of Ocean County, said her agency has seen the increased need among all age groups, including seniors, who rarely sought care there previously.
“Pre-Sandy, a lot of folks — all folks, but mainly seniors — if something was going on they would push through it,” she said. “It gave them the feeling that it’s OK to go for help now. I went through Sandy and I lost everything, so it’s OK to need help.”
There is help and assistance from the The Mental Health Association in New Jersey, which received a grant from the Department of Human Services, to provide New Jersey MentalHealthCares, a telephone line where people can get brief supportive counseling, assessments and referrals to community services.
New Jersey Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd said at a recent roundtable on post-Sandy stress that the psychological effects can last for years after the storm, either exacerbating an already existing behavioral health concern or creating a new one. If left untreated, those concerns can turn into problems that cause the person themselves physical ailments, cause families to break apart and potentially increase instances of domestic violence and child abuse.
“It reinforces we need to continue on our path of long-term recovery,” she said.
Among the grants, the state announced in April $2.2 million in grants that would allow community health centers and hospitals to screen patients for behavioral health concerns that resulted because of stresses from Sandy when they are seeking care for a physical ailment.