Nearly three years after Hurricane Katrina, tens of thousands of Coast children still need mental health counseling and are not be getting help, say local mental health professionals and community organizers. This week is National Children's Mental Health Week, and all over the state people are sporting green ribbons in support of children's well-being.Kids are suffering from the destruction of the storm and the lack of stability in housing and schools; it is putting them at risk, said Donna Alexander, executive director of the United Way of South Mississippi.
These children, according to data from Gulf Coast Mental Health Center in Gulfport, could number 50,000 or more. Alexander said they could fall prey to drugs and alcohol, or may even drop out of school. There is a need for suicide prevention, and substance abuse and trauma therapy programs, said Sandra Parks, director of the Division of Children and Youth Services at the state Department of Mental Health. "The first year and a half after Hurricane Katrina, people were concerned about meeting physical needs. Mental health didn't concern them. It didn't show up until one-and-a-half or two years later," she said.
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