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PRESS RELEASE

DHH Secretary Requests $10 Million from BP to Provide Mental Health Services to Residents Affected by the Oil Spill

BATON ROUGE (June 28, 2010) - In a letter to BP America's Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles on Monday, Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine requested $10 million from BP to provide mental health services to Louisiana residents affected by the oil spill.

The full text of the letter is below:


Doug Suttles
Chief Operating Officer
BP America Inc.
501 Westlake Park Blvd., WL1 - 25188
Houston, TX 77079


Dear Mr. Suttles:

We are following up on our May 28th letter, which identified critical near-term issues related to the oil spill, its impact on the people affected, and our request for BP to immediately establish a business and community impact mitigation fund. Included in that request was $10 million to help mitigate the behavioral health impacts of the spill on affected individuals and families. Our teams of counselors imbedded in the impacted communities are now warning us of an emerging behavioral health crisis, and we therefore believe it is critical we reassert our request in an effort to be assertive in the provision of services.

There exists anger, anxiety and uncertainty among the families and communities affected by the spill, which will easily manifest into addiction and various forms of mental health crisis if not confronted. Our Louisiana Spirit crisis counseling teams have already engaged and counseled almost 2,000 individuals in the affected areas, and are reporting palpable increases in anxiety, depression, stress, grief, excessive drinking, earlier drinking and suicide ideation. Community based organizations report similar findings. These are early warning signs of developing substance abuse and dependence, mental illness, suicide and familial breakdown including divorce, spouse abuse, and child abuse and neglect.

The effects of parental stress, anger, anxiety, substance abuse and mental illness are especially insidious on children . After Hurricane Katrina, an Urban Institute paper concluded the ability of parents to help their children feel calm and secure is compromised by their own uncertainty and loss. They found "...if parents remain in limbo themselves, and particularly if sadness, stress, or depression continue to color their interactions with their children, the risks of derailing children's development deepen." Numerous national studies confirm that children of parents with substance abuse disorders are more likely to experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect than children in other households.

The requested $10 million will support six months of continued outreach activities of our department's Louisiana Spirit outreach teams, and provide a needed spectrum of therapeutic and psychiatric services through the locally governed human service districts and authorities and community based organizations. On behalf of the Greater New Orleans VOAD, Catholic Charities has submitted a separate request of $23,267,500 for six months - $3.2 million of which is identified for mental health services, with an additional request for Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes to follow in July. We are in full support of this request, which will provide critical mental health screening, education, crisis management and counseling services through organizations with strong community ties. These services complete the continuum needed to meet this crisis: Louisiana Sprit teams provide outreach and referrals to VOAD counseling and case management, and VOAD refers individuals and families with more severe mental health and addictive disorder needs to the locally governed and human service authorities.

The speed with which we can initiate these services will greatly affect the longer-term behavioral health needs and will reduce the long-term costs of what is certain to be an ongoing challenge. We know from Louisiana's experience after Hurricane Katrina how mental illness and substance abuse will progress in these com munities if left untreated, and that early and consistent behavioral health supports and treatment can help mitigate the longer-term social damage. We will work in partnership with GNO VOAD and other local community-based organizations to identify any future needs beyond this critical six-month period, and will certainly plan to communicate those to you as the case warrants.

Due to the urgency of this request, we ask for a response no later than one week from your receipt of this letter.


Sincerely,

Alan Levine
Secretary

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