Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine's June 28 letter to BP COO Doug Suttles — the one requesting $10 million — came with a deadline: week's end. It was a follow-up to a letter sent in May in which the state requested the oil giant provide the money immediately "to help mitigate the behavioral health impacts of the spill on affected individuals and families."
According to Levine, state crisis counselors already have interviewed 2,000 people in the affected areas and have found "palpable increases" in depression, anxiety and stress, some of which is being expressed through excessive drinking and even suicidal ideation. (Allen "Rookie" Kruse, an Alabama charter boat captain, became the first person known to commit suicide in reaction to the disaster. He shot himself aboard his former charter boat, now a BP "vessel of opportunity," on June 23.)
Levine's findings echo those of a study of Hurricane Katrina survivors conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health from January to March 2006 — five to seven months after the federal floods. Nearly one in three reported mood and anxiety disorders, and under- or non-treatment was highest among several distinct groups, including the uninsured and people of "moderate means." The 2006 study concluded, "Future disaster responses will require timely provision of services to address the barriers faced by survivors."
BP told CNN on June 30 it was "reviewing the request," but as of Friday, July 2, the state had received no formal response from BP. — Kevin Allman