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Mental Health Emergency Preparedness: The Need for Training and Coordination at the State Level

  • Suzanne R. Hawley (a1), Gary C. Hawley (a1), Elizabeth Ablah (a1), Theresa St. Romain (a1), Craig A. Molgaard (a1) and Shirley A. Orr (a2)...

Abstract

Introduction:

The coordination and integration of mental health agencies' plans into disaster responses is a critical step for ensuring effective response to all-hazard emergencies.

Problem:

In order to remedy the current lack of integration of mental health into emergency preparedness training, researchers must assess mental health emergency preparedness training needs. To date, no recognized assessment exists.The current study addresses this need by qualitatively surveying public health and allied health professionals regarding mental health preparedness in Kansas.

Methods:

Participants included 144 professionals from public health and allied fields, all of whom attended one of seven training presentations on mental health preparedness. Following each presentation, participants provided written responses to nine qualitative questions about preparedness and mental health preparedness needs, as well as demographic information, and a program evaluation. Survey questions addressed perceptions of bioterrorism and mental health preparedness, perceptions about resource and training needs, as well as coordination of preparedness efforts.

Results:

Overall, few respondents indicated that they felt their county or community was prepared to respond to an attack. Respondents felt less prepared for mental health issues than they did for preparedness issues in general. The largest proportion of respondents reported that they would look to a community mental health center or the state health department for mental health preparedness information. Most respondents recognized the helpfulness of interagency coordination for mental health preparedness, and reported a willingness to take an active role in coordination.

Conclusions:

The current study provides important data about the gaps regarding mental health preparedness in Kansas.This study demonstrates the present lack of preparedness and the need for coordination to reach an appropriate level of mental health preparedness for the state.These findings are the first step to implementing effective distribution of information and training.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Suzanne R. Hawley, PhD, MPH, Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita, 1010 N. Kansas, Wichita, Kansas 67214-3199USA E-mail: shawley@kumc.edu

References

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Mental Health Emergency Preparedness: The Need for Training and Coordination at the State Level

  • Suzanne R. Hawley (a1), Gary C. Hawley (a1), Elizabeth Ablah (a1), Theresa St. Romain (a1), Craig A. Molgaard (a1) and Shirley A. Orr (a2)...

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