Federal Katrina recovery chief visits south Miss., praises volunteers

Published 4:37 pm Friday, February 15, 2008

The federal coordinator of Gulf Coast rebuilding said the government didn’t anticipate the need for mental health professionals in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and has had trouble bringing qualified therapists to the area.

Donald Powell spoke Thursday at the Mississippi Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster’s annual conference.

Responding to a question, Powell said Katrina’s victims, and especially children, needed immediate care after the storm and didn’t get it. Some, he said, are turning to drug and alcohol abuse to deal with their problems.

“It’s almost a forgotten need,” Powell said

Powell, whose office coordinates federal, state and local recovery efforts, lauded hurricane recovery volunteers for their work over the past 2 1/2 years and urged them to stay ready for the next disaster.

“It’s that smile, that hug, that tap on the shoulder, that lifting someone up when they were really on their knees,” Powell said. “It’s wiping away that tear; it’s holding that baby that makes you special.”