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Hurricanes’ Effects on Health Care and What Foundations Are Funding in Louisiana



August 31st, 2010

As the media have been reporting on New Orleans at the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, it is also an opportune time for the GrantWatch Blog to report on how foundations have been helping in the Crescent City and surrounding area. Foundations have awarded grants to inform the general public about the status of New Orleans, to provide helpful information for local residents, and to provide direct services for people still coping with the aftereffects of the 2005 hurricanes. This is just a sampling of philanthropic efforts.

Recently released survey and blog post:

“New Orleans Five Years after the Levees Broke” is the latest blog post by Drew Altman, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). (He does a monthly post in his series “Pulling It Together, from Drew Altman.”)

Here, Altman relates some highlights of the KFF’s recent survey of New Orleans residents on how things are going in New Orleans. “New Orleans Five Years after the Storm: A New Disaster amid Recovery” is the third such survey fielded by this operating foundation. Altman says in his August 30, 2010, post that 70 percent of New Orleanians “believe the rest of the country has forgotten them and the difficulties the city still faces in its recovery.” He mentions another surprising survey result: “More residents see the city as divided by ‘class’ (33%) than by ‘race’ (17%).”

Only about a third of this survey focused on health care, by my estimate. An accompanying press release noted, “The picture is mixed on the recovery of the health care system.” For example, 49 percent of residents said “they see ‘a lot’ or ‘some’ improvement in the availability of medical services and facilities,” while an equal share said they see little or no progress in that area. More than half (55 percent) of residents surveyed said their health care needs are being met “very well.” That is an increase from 42 percent in the 2008 survey, and 36 percent in the 2006 survey.

Despite the increased numbers of health clinics in the New Orleans area, 84 percent of respondents said they did not think there were enough health care services for uninsured and low-income people in New Orleans. And 27 percent of respondents said either that their usual place of care is the emergency room or that they have no usual place of care. The survey, which was conducted in May and June 2010, also found “improvement in reported mental health status.”

In his blog post, Altman commented that more respondents chose the BP oil spill than Katrina and the levee breeches (49 percent vs. 40 percent) when they were asked which calamity will ultimately damage the region more.

Hats off to the KFF for continuing to follow this story years later.

Examples of grants awarded:

“GE Foundation Awards $2M Grant to Support New Orleans School-Based Health Centers,” Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI) press release, August 24, 2010. This grant to the LPHI will expand access to preventive, primary care, and primary mental health services for adolescents in Orleans Parish (county) and will fund the institute’s School Health Connection program, a regional collaborative. (The collaborative has received funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.) The LPHI and its partners will “build on previous philanthropic and government investments” received after Hurricane Katrina to continue to provide access to health care in the New Orleans area.

“With 38,000 students across Orleans Parish alone, this grant has the potential to give thousands of students improved access to primary healthcare services,” through school-based health centers, the release said. Such centers allow “easy access to services for youth who frequently delay treatments or commonly seek emergency room care.” School Health Connection and its local and state partners plan to increase health care use “through growing enrollment and increasing use among eligible students, as well as extending services to neighboring schools, family members and nearby residents,” the release noted.

The GE Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the General Electric Company (GE). This grant is part of the foundation’s three-year, $25 million Developing Health program, developed by the foundation and the GE Corporate Diversity Council. Developing Health “aims to improve access to primary care in targeted underserved communities across the United States”; it launched in October 2009. The program partners with nonprofit health centers and offers volunteer support from GE employees and sharing of business best practices. Grantseekers: Please note that the GE Foundation, which is based in Fairfield, Connecticut, does not accept unsolicited proposals.

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Baptist Community Ministries (BCM), a private foundation in New Orleans, has awarded a grant to Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of New Orleans, for the H.O.P.E. Health Promoters Program: Health Outreach, Promotion, and Education. BCM’s web site says that since Hurricane Katrina, the Latino population in Greater New Orleans has increased, and this population has unmet needs. Under this second BCM grant, H.O.P.E. aims to expand to two new areas of need, Medicaid and food stamps, while continuing to help Latinos gain access to health services as it has before. The program uses health promoters (promotoras de salud, or community health workers) to address the needs of Latinos in a culturally competent way.

Web sites:

Check out the Foundation Center’s Focus on Gulf Coast Hurricane Relief web site. This useful site contains news from the center’s Philanthropy News Digest (a weekly electronic digest of foundation news) on efforts by philanthropy to help the Gulf Coast region affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The site also has links to relevant posts from the center’s PhilanTopic blog, as well as reports that its PubHub site has listed. The Hurricane Relief site also includes an interview with the president and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation; among other topics, this leader discusses the role of foundations in the post-Katrina recovery in New Orleans. Interactive maps show giving for hurricane-related efforts by foundations. (Click here for more information on the maps.)

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Eighty-seven community-based health centers now operate across Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard Parishes (counties) in Louisiana. GNOCommunity.org is “a service dedicated to helping individuals find a quality healthcare center that fits their needs.” The web site is searchable by zip code or type of health service sought. The centers are open to all people “regardless of their ability to pay” and are funded in part by a $100 million U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Primary Care Access and Stabilization Grant (PCASG), which is set to expire at the end of September 2010. (A few health center grantees would benefit from a pending no-cost extension request under consideration by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which will allow those grantees an additional year to spend their federal grant funds, Maria Ludwick, interim director of the PCASG program, explained in an e-mail interview.) The LPHI administers that federal funding. The federal grant and BCM support GNOCommunity.org’s web site and outreach activities.

Ludwick also explained, via e-mail, that there is good news on the funding front. “The State [of Louisiana] has put forth an 1115 Research and Demonstration Waiver that seeks to sustain the clinic network as a bridge to health care reform, which means continued access to primary and behavioral healthcare” for uninsured patients being served “until Medicaid expansion and the State’s [health insurance] exchange in 2014,” she explained. People living in the four-parish area, ages nineteen through sixty-four, with incomes less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level “would be enrolled in the program and offered a limited primary and behavioral health care benefits package through the participating PCASG provider network for phase one of the transition.”

Ludwick said that the demonstration project is expected to “make available up to $30 million per year of the state’s unspent Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) allotment.” Louisiana has been granted approval by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development “to use the disaster Community Development Block Grant funding as [a] local match required” by DSH draw-down regulations. The waiver is expected to be approved by October 1, 2010, she said.

Related resources:

“Establishing and Refining Hurricane Response Systems for Long-Term Care Facilities,” Kathryn Hyer, Lisa M. Brown, Amy Berman, and LuMarie Polivka-West, Health Affairs (GrantWatch) Web Exclusive, August 29, 2006. Hyer and Brown are with the University of South Florida, Berman is with the John A. Hartford Foundation, and Polivka-West is with the Florida Health Care Association. Look for an update from these authors in an upcoming GrantWatch section of the journal!

“Legacy of Katrina: The Impact of a Flawed Recovery on Vulnerable Children of the Gulf Coast,” Children’s Health Fund and National Center for Disaster Preparedness at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, White Paper, released August 23, 2010. Among the key findings of this five-year status report is that “children displaced by Katrina were 4.5 times more likely to have symptoms consistent with serious emotional disturbance (SED) than did comparable children surveyed in a 2004 national study.”

“Revisiting ‘Witness to Disaster’: First-Person Accounts of Katrina’s Aftermath,” Chris Fleming, Health Affairs Blog post, August 27, 2010. Read about a Narrative Matters section published in Health Affairs in 2006. The section contains vignettes from Fred Cerise (who was then secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals), Ben Springgate (then a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar), and several more people.

St. Bernard Project’s Center for Wellness and Mental Health, Chalmette, Louisiana. “Opened in January 2009 through an innovative partnership with Louisiana State University’s Health Sciences Center,” the Center for Wellness and Mental Health “provides evaluation, treatment and support for residents of St. Bernard [Parish] and New Orleans suffering from storm- or oil-spill-related mental health problems.” Liz McCartney, cofounder of the St. Bernard Project, said in an e-mail interview that the center has received funding from the Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation, located in Metairie, Louisiana, as well as the Gulf Relief Foundation, the United Way for Greater New Orleans, and private donations.

McCartney, who received the 2008 CNN Hero of the Year award, and Zack Rosenburg, the other cofounder, note, “Our goal [at the center] is not to simply solve the problem [in the New Orleans area], but to develop a replicable model that can be taken to other communities impacted by natural and man-made disasters. We must improve the quality of services and the speed at which they are delivered to prevent harm and help people get back to living as quickly as possible.”

The St. Bernard Project is perhaps better known for its efforts at rebuilding homes that were badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

“A Tale of Two Recoveries,” Michael A. Fletcher, Washington Post, August 27, 2010.

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