UCI Health tool measures mental health effects of disaster
CDC review of Napa quake relief effort assesses mental health risk
September 10, 2015
Measuring the complex mental health effects of a disaster is critical for health officials to begin treating traumatized survivors. UCI Health trauma/disaster psychology expert Merritt D. Schreiber, PhD, has developed a system that in recent years has been used locally and nationally that enables hospitals, community clinics and providers, nurses, EMTs and first responders to measure the psychological impact of disaster experiences on survivors.
In this week’s issue of the CDC’s MMWR, an article entitled “Injuries and Traumatic Psychological Exposures Associated with the South Napa Earthquake – California, 2014” describes how Schreiber’s system, called PsySTART, was used in the initial relief efforts for the disaster. The goal of PsySTART is to determine whether survivors are at a high, medium or low level of risk for experiencing post traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.
“Rapid assessment of survivors’ traumatic exposures early after a disaster is particularly important to identify those most at risk for developing PTSD and other mental health issues,” Schreiber said.
PsySTART is a disaster mental health triage tool that involves asking survivors a series of questions about their experiences, including exposure to extreme events, traumatic loss, and secondary post-event impacts. The answers provide an evidence-based method for measuring the emotional and psychological injuries of disaster survivors.
“The data collected enables public health officials to deploy appropriate mental health recovery services that benefit both individual and population-based clinical outcomes,” Schreiber said. “The data collected also helps inform the planning response for future disasters. Since the earthquake, both Napa and Solano counties have launched new public outreach programs for what to do when disaster strikes, and have added mental health training programs for responders.”
PsySTART has been used by the CDC previously to assess the mental health effects of the earthquake-tsunami disasters in Thailand in 2004 and American Samoa in 2009, as well as by the American Red Cross as part of the 2012 Superstorm Sandy relief effort.
UCI Health comprises the clinical, medical education and research enterprises of the University of California, Irvine. Patients can access UCI Health at physician offices throughout Orange County and at its main campus, UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, Calif., a 411-bed acute care hospital that provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, behavioral health and rehabilitation. U.S. News & World Report has listed it among America’s Best Hospitals for 15 consecutive years. UC Irvine Medical Center features Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, high-risk perinatal/neonatal program, Level I trauma center and Level II pediatric trauma center, and is the primary teaching hospital for UC Irvine School of Medicine. UCI Health serves a region of more than 3 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
About the University of California, Irvine: Currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $4.8 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UC Irvine, visit www.uci.edu.
— UCI Health Marketing & Communications
Featured in UCI Health Live Well Magazine Fall 2015