Through its members and as an association, APA responded to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina with financial assistance and the unique skills of psychologists when people are in need.
"Our first goal was to lend financial assistance to the relief effort in addition to the important help being provided through the Disaster Response Network. Then we began to concentrate on the unique aspects of this event," says APA President Ronald F. Levant, EdD. "We need to help our fellow psychologists and the psychology community in the affected areas begin to rebuild, and we need to bring strong cultural competency skills to the relief effort."
Through APA's partnership with the American Red Cross in the APA/Red Cross Disaster Response Network (DRN), APA members were standing ready to be deployed to assistance centers before the storm made landfall. On Monday morning, Aug. 29, the DRN was officially activated, and APA members began to deploy to shelter sites within the storm region. By press time, several hundred APA members were deployed to approximately 30 shelters in states across the country. These members, who are pre-event trained for disaster response work, volunteer to work for a minimum of two weeks. They report the work is draining and incredibly rewarding at the same time.
In addition to the volunteer efforts of members, APA will also make contributions of $50,000 each to the American Red Cross, the Bush-Clinton Katrina Recovery Fund and Habitat for Humanity.
Numerous colleges, universities and their psychology departments have also been damaged or displaced by the storm. In an effort to help these institutions recover, APA will offer one-year exemptions to accreditation and continuing-education sponsor fees and will extend the electronic products licenses of schools that had to close due to storm damage.
APA members living or working in storm-damaged/FEMA disaster-designated areas will also be offered a one-year hardship waiver of their APA dues and practice assessment. Information about how to apply for the waiver will be included in the dues package for members in the affected areas.
In addition, the circumstances of this storm raised critical issues about race and poverty in America, according to Jessica Henderson Daniel, PhD, a member of the APA Board of Directors.
"I believe APA and psychology have a special opportunity and unique responsibility to use the devastating consequences of this hurricane to help not only our own discipline but the entire country recognize the glaring disparities that exist in America and create programs to address them," says Daniel. "The environmental scientists all tell us that future flooding in New Orleans is a strong possibility.
"If such an event were to happen again, I hope that the next generation of people of color of the region will have the resources to protect themselves," she adds. "We all have to work at a systems level to make sure they do."