Disaster Affects Mental Health Too, NASW Argues

Mary WakefieldNASW also sent a letter to Mary Wakefield, head of the Health Resources and Services Administration, about home visitation.

Recent advocacy efforts by the NASW national office have called for mental health treatment for those adversely affected by the Gulf Coast oil disaster.

NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark, on behalf of the association, stated in a letter to Kenneth Feinberg, administrator of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, that NASW was deeply disappointed by his intention to exclude mental health and substance use conditions from coverage by the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

“Mental and addictive illnesses, including those conditions that have occurred as a result of experiencing extreme stress and trauma, are real and potentially debilitating illnesses that can lead to disability and death by suicide, if not properly treated,” the letter stated. “NASW urges you to reconsider your position of discriminating against individuals who have developed legitimate behavioral health disorders that are a result of the BP oil catastrophe.”

The letter went on to say that mental and addictive illnesses are legitimate conditions and contemporary research shows that stressful events like the oil spill and its resulting job losses can lead to the emergence or worsening of post-traumatic stress disorder and other related illnesses.

Clark said that the Department of Veterans Affairs has modified its policy regarding health care and disability compensation to specify that PTSD also can be based on a more general experience of fear and stress due to deployment to a war zone.

“NASW urges you to follow the example of the VA and the research experience to reverse your position denying compensation for mental health and addictive disorders resulting from the oil spill disaster,” the letter stated.

In another matter, NASW sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services officials in regard to the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed in 2010.

Clark provided written comments to HHS regarding the program’s development of criteria for effectiveness and evidence.

Social workers have a long history of involvement with home visitation programs and work to promote wellness and successful child development as well as prevent child maltreatment, Clark wrote to Mary Wakefield, administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration, and David Hansell, acting assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families.

The letter contained recommendations that include such topics as criteria research, controlled trials and proposed methods of systematic review of evidence.

The letter noted that HHS is embarking on one of the most complex efforts undertaken to enhance the well-being of children in the United States.

“NASW would be happy to be a resource to HRSA and ACF as these home visiting programs are implemented,” the letter stated.