Counseling services expanded for flood victims

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Following last year's flood, a group of local mental health providers, calling themselves Resilient Baton Rouge, saw the problem coming and themselves reached out for help in the form of money to expand services. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation responded with a grant.

"We knew there was a need in the community just because people lost everything. We also know that they're operating in post-traumatic stress disorder," said Leslie Grover, Project Manager with Resilient Baton Rouge.

The $300,000 grant will go towards hiring more health professionals and offering additional training for service providers, especially for dealing with depression that often follows disasters. Four centers, EXCELth Inc. Baton Rouge, Open Health's Mid-City, CareSouth and RKM Primary Care FQHC Network will offer counseling services throughout the city.

"There's this initial period of shock, the process of losing possessions. There's a change in our routine, what is familiar to us and so it is really trying to process all of that and really just figuring out what our next steps would be," said mental health provider Yolanda Johnson.

Johnson said since the flood, over a year ago, she's seen a spike in their service usage.

"Within my agency, I can comfortably say, especially since the flood, we've probably seen a 15-20% increase in the need for services," said Johnson.

Those trained in disaster response said sometimes you might not even know you're suffering.

"There are increases in drug use, there are increases in alcohol use, in domestic violence, there is an increase in violence overall. So, these behaviors, however, are not because people are bad and looking to get into things. It really is acting out of trauma, out of post-traumatic stress, depression or a range of other issues," said Grover.

Symptoms of depression or post-traumatic stress could include a change in appetite, sleep pattern, mood or lack of enjoyment from activities.

"Mental health is public health and when people are suffering from depression or anxiety or other disorders, it makes it more difficult for them to function." "It really is something that has threads that run all throughout this community," said Johnson.

Health professionals want to get rid of the stigma associated with counseling and catch people before they self-medicate. Grover said, "Even if a person is late in stages or they're just realizing it, it is still fine to seek help."

Health experts said those seeking treatment can walk into any of the four centers and after a screening, you will be referred to a health professional.

Locations of the centers:
  • EXCELth Inc. Baton Rouge site is located at 4560 North Blvd, Suite 104
  • Open Health’s Mid-City is located at 3801 North Boulevard
  • CareSouth is located at 3140 Florida Blvd, Baton Rouge, LA 70806.
  • RKM Primary Care FQHC Network has locations in East Feliciana, Livingston and West Baton Rouge.

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