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Working Through Disaster: Re-establishing Mental Health Care After Hurricane Katrina

  • Natalie D. Baker (a1), Martha S. Feldman (a1) (a2) and Victoria Lowerson (a1)



Our research explored how mental health care providers continued to work during and after Hurricane Katrina.


We interviewed 32 practitioners working in the New Orleans mental health care community during and after Hurricane Katrina. Through qualitative data analysis, we developed three temporal periods of disruption: the evacuation period, the surreal period, and the new normal period. We analyzed the actions informants took during these time periods.


The mental health care providers adapted to disruption by displaying two forms of flexibility: doing different tasks and doing tasks differently. How much and how they engaged in these forms of flexibility varied during the three periods.


Informants’ actions helped to create system resilience by adjusting the extent to which they were doing different tasks and the ways in which they were doing tasks differently during the three time periods. Their flexibility allowed them to provide basic care and adapt to changed circumstances. Their flexibility also contributed to maintaining a skilled workforce in the affected region. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2013;7:222-231)


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Martha S. Feldman, PhD, 226G Social Ecology 1, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA 92697-7075. (e-mail


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Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness
  • ISSN: 1935-7893
  • EISSN: 1938-744X
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