Hospitals, Communities, and Disaster Preparedness: An Evaluation of Disaster Behavioral Health Preparedness in Colorado

By Debra Kreisberg, Melissa Tucker, Jonathan Hawkins, Jenny Schmitz, Sharon Pendlebury, Mary Pancheri and Jen Szczepanski.

Published by The International Journal of Sustainability Policy and Practice

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Sustainability is a framework for exploring a community within its broadest possible context, and looking at hazards and disasters as integral parts of the much larger environment in which it exists. Community represents an integrated paradigm of social, cultural, economic, and environmental spheres in which people participate simultaneously. As a result, physical and mental disaster health impacts are inseparable. To build surge capacity, hospitals need to move from theory to practice suggesting a resource-based, community participatory model. By partnering with community resources, the hospital becomes more resilient and, in the case of mental health and psychosocial impacts, the hospital facility and the continuation of its services become a fundamental part of the resiliency of the community. A disaster mental health pedagogical intervention was piloted by the Center for Integrated Disaster Preparedness and the Colorado Hospital Association and an evaluation of the intervention was conducted to determine strengths and gaps in resources that remain. The results suggest that resources in the community represent the most readily available opportunities for capacity building and for bridging many gaps. The dynamics of supporting relationships will be explored and two case studies, a community hospital and teaching hospital, will be presented as examples of success.

Keywords: Disasters, Behavioral Health, Surge Capability, Capacity Building, Community, Resource Dependency, Hospital Preparedness, Resilience

The International Journal of Sustainability Policy and Practice, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp.247-258. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 236.033KB).

Dr. Debra Kreisberg

Director, Center for Integrated Disaster Preparedness, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, University of Colorado, Denver, CO, USA

Dr. Kreisberg received her doctorate in international relations from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver in 2002. She has worked and studied in Europe, India, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Mexico. Her research interests include: sustainability, disaster preparedness, and racial and ethnic health disparities.

Melissa Tucker

Alumni, Graduate School of Professional Psychology, International Disaster Psychology, University of Denver, Denver, CO, USA

Melissa is a graduate of the University of Denver’s International Disaster Psychology Program. Her research interests include: individual and community resiliency, climate change impact on mental health, hospital and organizational systems, and disaster preparedness. She traveled to Fiji in the summer of 2011 to conduct an evaluation of the South Pacific disaster Mental Health and Psyhco-social support system.

Jonathan Hawkins

Alumni, Graduate School of Professional Psychology, International Disaster Psychology, University of Denver, Denver, CO, USA

Jonathan is a recent graduate of the University of Denver’s Master’s of Arts in international disaster psychology. His research interests include: individual and group level trauma, resilience, and post-traumatic growth. Recently, he spent a summer in India working at an HIV/AIDS non-profit on staff care and capacity building. His past research experience included a presentation at the 25th Annual Conference on the Interdisciplinary Analysis of Aggression and Terrorism on the differences between eastern and western conflict resolution.

Jenny Schmitz

Denver Health and Hospital Authority, Denver, CO, USA

Sharon Pendlebury

Longmont United Hospital, Denver, CO, USA

Mary Pancheri

Longmont United Hospital, Denver, CO, USA

Jen Szczepanski

Co-chair, Behavioral Health Disaster Planning Committee, Denver Health and Hospital Authority, CO, USA