August 28th, 2009
04:25 PM ET

4 years after Katrina, NOLA mental health system still in crisis

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/HEALTH/08/28/nola.mental.health.katrina/art.crockett.cnn.jpg caption="Alesia Crockett, who suffers from bipolar disorder, ended up in a hospital hours outside New Orleans."]
Stephanie Smith
CNN Medical Producer

As the storm raged outside her hospital room four years ago, an equally consuming force hijacked Alesia Crockett's mind: deep depression.

For days, Crockett lay in darkness and a tangle of sweaty hospital bed sheets, one among hundreds of desperate patients trapped inside Charity Hospital in 2005, while outside, Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath battered the city.

Crockett had been admitted to Charity's inpatient mental health unit after having a psychotic episode. She had struggled for years with bipolar disorder, an illness that causes her to volley between euphoria and profound depression.

She said she barely remembers Katrina.

"Most of the time, I was in a fog, but I do remember some things," Crockett said. "Where my room was, I could see thousands of people wandering, and I could see the waters rise."

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Filed under: Hurricane Katrina
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    New Orleans has no voice in Washington because Senator Landieu or whatever her name is, ain't worth a darn and neither is Gov. Bobby Jindal. Jindah, one term, and he thinks he's ready to be president when he hasn't shown leadership in New Orleans.

    August 30, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  2. William of Iowa

    Those who oppose healthcare reform should line up and celebrate this inaction, starting with Governor Jindel. The opposition certainly will not stand for passing any additional costs relative to mental health or any healthcare issue on to their children and grandchildren.

    August 30, 2009 at 10:30 am |
  3. Tyrone

    Shamefully this country cares more about going to Iraq FOR NOTHING! A war that should have never been then providing healthcare in this country! The continued lack of mental health services is one of the saddest on going tragedies in the city.But it's so America !

    August 29, 2009 at 8:48 pm |
  4. robert c. maize

    Mental health in our cultural social system is the
    invisible nightmare
    of a free society.

    As a “free” man where one has to make the choice of what do I do next?

    It is the conflict of Homo sapiens and his walkabout looking for his path of “self in the system”

    The UNWHO defines mental health as:

    "a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community
    We were warned over 200 years ago by a invited guest of Ben Franklin in a cultural exchange by the author of “Democracy in America” (1835)
    Alexis de Tocqueville where he noted that their would be a great discontent
    As this having to be responsible for self would cause great pain.
    Our problem now is that it became the truth and we allowed
    It to flow into the streets.

    Of cource this is just an observation of an the great armadillo
    trying to get to the other Side with a note:
    that Tocqueville 8 out of 10 people would spend time locked up.
    Barrow A. Dillo
    So remember to be kind and gentle with yourself!

    August 29, 2009 at 7:28 am |
  5. Annie Kate

    NOLA's situation is probably worse than other places but it seems that most places do not have enough beds and space for treating mentally ill. The mentally ill has always been an afterthought because society did not understand their illness or how to treat it. Hopefully, that is changing and people like Crockett can trust that her safety net will be there to help her as she needs it.

    August 28, 2009 at 6:40 pm |
  6. Vicky, Ottawa

    Thanks for the update about mental health in New Orleans and the very limited resources. Not only do those with pre-existing mental health issues need support and services, but there are high rates of PTSD, among both adults and children. They have been through more there than we can possibly imagine. The rates are staying high, rather than dropping off after a year or so, as is usually seen. I think this is not only the case for people across the states impacted by Katrina, but also for those who were forced to re-locate. Really disappointed to hear that NOAH is definitely closing, I thought the governor had relented, but maybe today is the end of the reprieve.

    August 28, 2009 at 5:24 pm |
  7. doctorj2u

    The continued lack of mental health services is one of the saddest on going tragedies in the city.

    August 28, 2009 at 4:45 pm |