Mental Health Experts Say Needs Will Rise in Days Ahead
Mental health professionals in the New York area are "rolling up [their] sleeves and venturing into fire stations, rescue sites and public schools" to offer counseling services, the Wall Street Journal reports. The New York Psychoanalytical Institute has assembled a list of members willing to see patients affected by the attacks for free (Lagnado, Wall Street Journal, 9/14). It also established a crisis and grief center yesterday and plans to send counselors to Manhattan branches of Barnes & Noble bookstores to offer counseling services. Some experts said the need for counseling services will increase in the days and weeks ahead. New York's Lenox Hill Hospital set up a walk-in counseling center Wednesday, then saw patient levels quadruple yesterday. Dr. Molly Poag, assistant director for education and training at the hospital's department of psychiatry, said she expects the numbers to increase "with each passing day" (Villarosa, New York Times, 9/14). HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson noted, "The emotional and psychological wounds from the human-caused tragedies of Sept. 11 will be deeper and take much longer to heal than those from the events of similar scope caused by natural forces." Some problems such as "intense worries and bad memories" will "diminish with counseling, emotional support and time," but others such as depression, anxiety and stress disorders can take longer to manifest and heal. As a result, HHS plans to make more long term funding available to local community mental health programs (HHS release, 9/13).
Many companies are "woefully unprepared" to deal with employees' mental health needs after Tuesday's attacks, the Wall Street Journal reports. Employers need to be "especially sensitive not to rush workers into doing something they aren't yet comfortable with," Cigna Behavioral Health President Keith Dixon said, adding, "You can't tell employees to stop listening to the radio and turn the Internet off and go back to your jobs." That sort of action will only lead to "less productivity and high turnover," he added. According to one study, employees "directly touched by a catastrophe" return to work faster if they receive timely mental health care. Complicating access to such care is the fact that mental health insurance coverage is not as encompassing as insurance for physical ailments, usually covering a limited number of counseling sessions with higher co-payments than for other doctor visits. However, legislation before Congress would mandate that companies with 50 or more employees provide access to and charge co-payments for mental health services on par with those for other services. Some companies are also taking steps to assist their employees in the wake of the attacks. Dixon said his company, a subsidiary of Cigna Corp. that oversees mental health services for nearly 1,000 companies, has received calls from more than 80 groups inquiring about his agency's services since Tuesday. In addition, the Journal reports, General Motors Corp. is holding grief counseling sessions for employees at its New York and Detroit offices and will make counselors in New York available for individual session through next week (Martinez/Crossen, Wall Street Journal, 9/14).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.