By: Allen Johnson
March 31 is the deadline for those affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita to apply for a $2,000 mental health grant from the American Red Cross Access to Care program (1-866-794-4673 or www.a2care.org), which on that day will change its name to the Emotional Support Program. Both the Orleans Parish Recovery School District and a critic of the RSD system are urging parents of school children to contact the Red Cross program, which funds counseling needs associated with the storms that devastated south Louisiana in 2005. There is not a comprehensive PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) screening/referral program for students in the RSD schools two-and-a-half years after Katrina, says Tulane University historian Lance Hill, a community activist. But Siona LaFrance, communications director for the RSD, says help is available for the students and more is on the way. The Recovery School District is collaborating with the LSU Health Sciences Center Department of Psychiatry, which developed a screening instrument for post-traumatic stress disorder, LaFrance says. We hope to begin using this screening tool in our schools soon. Until then, RSD social workers and counselors have established policies and procedures for crisis intervention, assessment and referrals to the appropriate behavioral health and social services agencies, she says. In addition, School Health Connections, a coalition of community-based agencies, offers students services in crisis intervention, violence prevention, conflict resolution, psychosocial counseling, grief counseling and positive social skills development, LaFrance says.