Thursday, November 1, 2012

Psychiatrists Scramble Post-Sandy to Connect With Patients

Hurricane Sandy left New Jersey psychiatrists struggling to connect with patients. Power and landline phones remain out in the state, cell-phone service is spotty, gasoline is in short supply, and roads to offices, homes, and hospitals are often blocked, said Charles Ciolino, M.D., chair of the New Jersey Psychiatric Association's Disaster Preparedness Committee. Ciolino knows firsthand: a tree crashed into his home during the storm, and he used his car to charge his cell phone for an interview this morning. Many psychiatrists or their patients cancelled appointments, said Ciolino.
“The posttraumatic issues for victims will only arise in the longer term,” he said. “I hope that our [member] psychiatrists will volunteer their time for educational talks in the community.”
Glenn Kashurba, M.D., of Somerset, Pa., was deployed to New Jersey as part of a Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT). He does much general medical work on the team and consults on psychiatric issues as they arise. He advised a Tennessee DMAT working in a New Jersey shelter that housed numerous indigent and chronically mentally ill individuals. “The big problem they face when displaced is they don’t have their medications, and you have to quickly transition them to whatever the DMAT has in stock,” Kashurba told Psychiatric News. Those changes can mean moving from the latest antipsychotics to older drugs or benzodiazepines to tide patients over for a few days until they can be reconnected with pharmacies.
“This is just the first stage,” said Ciolino. “There will be a long period of rebuilding physically and psychologically.”
Read more about the psychiatric response to disasters in the American Psychiatric Publishing book, Disaster Psychiatry: Readiness, Evaluation, and Treatment. For more in Psychiatric News about recent research in disaster psychiatry, click here.
(Image: AP Photo/Julio Cortez)


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