Hurricane Katrina forever altered the lives of thousands of New Orleans residents who were forced to try and make it in Houston.
“When you displaced more than 250-thousand people from their homes and they’ve lost everything, I think, yeah, that’s very unrealistic that that could happen.”
Donald Higginbottom is program manager of the Katrina-Rita Counseling Case Management Programs for the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority of Harris County. He says the unprecedented disaster magnified the problems of people who relied on social services.
“One of the things that we had to recognize that people would still need a form counseling that could be informally done for psycho educational groups, or individual psycho educational help, then some people who need formal therapy.”
MHMRA assembled a team of case managers and licensed professional counselors to help guide survivors toward self sufficiency — thanks to a 3 1/2 million dollar grant from Harris County. Higginbottom says under the grant, Katrina victims must be employed or working on skills and education toward employment.
“Our big goal is to put people into a plan that they’re working at. We push the issue of unemployment, we push the issue about self sufficiency, because we want to empower people to move forward.”
FEMA programs that initially aided victims ended last year, and Higginbottom says other grant programs were necessary to continue servicing Katrina survivors.
“We do want to get the word out there to Katrina-Rita survivors that we do exist, and that we are here to provide the assistance, as long as this grant is in place, and we do want to touch as many lives as we possibly can.”
The grant is funded until September 09 and will help the estimated 30-thousand people who still need mental health services. More information can be found at www.mhmraofharriscounty-dot-org, or call 713 970-8276.
Pat Hernandez, KUHF…Houston Public Radio News.