Feature

As South Bend, Ind., pediatric neuropsychologist John Courtney, PhD, watched TV coverage that showed New Orleans streets turn into deep rivers of toxic sludge, he thought about how he'd feel if such a tragedy hit his hometown.

"Sure, I'd want a place to sleep at night, but I'd also be bankrupt and worried about solvency," says Courtney, a native of Baton Rouge, La.

As a result, on Sept. 1, he sent out a message on a pediatric neuropsychological listserv to offer office space and a room in his house for a psychologist displaced by the storm. The same day, he and another listserv member, Janine Stasior, PhD, began gathering a list of psychologists across the country who also had office space they could share with psychologists who lost their practices-a number that the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists puts at 266 in Louisiana alone: nearly half of the state's 598 psychologists.

Six days later, the list became the Web site www.displacedpsychologists.org. On Sept. 26, two days after Hurricane Rita hit the region, Courtney reconfigured the site-from a site devoted to Katrina evacuees to a crisis relocation service for any displaced psychologist. In September alone, the site had more than 72,000 hits.

"Given the environmental disasters we've seen recently, I think there may be a need for this site for some time," Courtney says.

Courtney's effort was among several psychologist-led projects aimed at helping evacuees:

  • Steve Hughes, PhD, a University of Minnesota Medical School pediatric neuropsychologist who administers the listserv that Courtney used, urged the listserv's 1,300 members to send money to any disaster relief-related organization. While he originally hoped to raise $5,000, by Sept. 9, he helped to amass $31,000 in donations.

  • Within APA, Div. 31 (State, Provincial and Territorial Psychological Association Affairs) transformed its Web site to serve as a clearinghouse of information for Katrina evacuees. The site now posts up-to-the-minute information, including job listings, information about accreditation, where to receive disaster training and where to find links to other involved organizations, such as the Red Cross, says Nancy Gordon Moore, PhD, the division's Web administrator and executive director of the Kentucky Psychological Association.

  • Also in Kentucky, Moore has spearheaded the association's program "One Psychologist. One Survivor," which aims to link clinical psychologists in private practice with some of the more than 6,500 evacuees who sought shelter in the state. "We think the program will provide a clearcut way that folks in private practice can do something substantial for the evacuees," she says.

-Z. Stambor