ByJamie Smith Hopkins / Center for Public Integrity |
We heard from more than 200 disaster survivors and people helping them. Here’s what we learned. The Center for Public Integrity, Columbia Journalism Investigations and our partners in newsrooms around the country, including IowaWatch, have been reporting on this for months. We’ve learned a lot by asking experts: people who’ve lived through disasters and the professionals who study this or provide hands-on help. More than 230 shared their experiences in our detailed survey, and we interviewed dozens of additional people.
About this project: Hidden EpidemicsIowaWatch reported this story as part of a project on disasters and mental health with the Center for Public Integrity, Columbia Journalism Investigations, California Health Report, Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, City Limits, InvestigateWest, The Island Packet, The Lens, The Mendocino Voice, Side Effects and The State. PARKERSBURG, Iowa – For 25 years, disasters beckoned Chris Luhring to help. On Aug. 10, he was called again — to respond to the same kind of devastation he’d endured 12 years earlier – and to provide hope and courage amid the darkness and despair delivered by a savage derecho. Luhring, the city administrator of Parkersburg, prepared for an afternoonmeeting at City Hall Aug.
The Center for Public Integrity and Columbia Journalism Investigations collaborated on this project with newsrooms around the country: IowaWatch, California Health Report, Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, City Limits, InvestigateWest, The Island Packet, The Lens, The Mendocino Voice, Side Effects and The State. We created our survey for disaster survivors and mental-health professionals with guidance and vetting from Sarah Lowe, clinical psychologist and assistant professor at Yale School of Public Health; Elana Newman, professor of psychology at the University of Tulsa and research director for the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University; Gilbert Reyes, clinical psychologist and chair of the American Psychological Association’s trauma psychology division disaster relief committee; and Jonathan Sury, project director for communications and field operations for the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University. HIDDEN EPIDEMICS: Weather disasters drive a mental health crisis RELATED: Iowa’s Parkersburg tornado survivors offer support, hope after derecho turmoil RELATED: How to heal emotional wounds after disaster
No government agency in the United States regularly tracks the psychological outcomes of disasters. And while academic studies may shed light on specific events, the questionnaire was meant to understand experiences from multiple disasters across the country, furthering on-the-ground reporting. It is not a formal, randomized survey.
I’m sure we all have been inspired at one time or another by a gifted speaker. Maybe it was a pastor or teacher. Maybe it was a leader who is a skilled orator. Or it might have been someone else who connected with us and delivered a memorable message. In the past few weeks, a couple of speakers have done that for me.
ByIowaWatch database of U.S. HHS data compiled by Lyle Muller |
This story is part of a nationwide collaboration of Institute for Nonprofit News members examining the affect COVID-19 is having on rural health care. IowaWatch reporting in this project was made possible by support from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.
Relief payments distributed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through the Health Resources and Services Administration have gone to the following Iowa health care providers, as of Aug. 19, 2020. The funds come via the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. These data show updates from databases IowaWatch published May 19, June 3, June 18, June 30 and July 15.
Regardless of what you think of his political positions, Terry Branstad knew instinctively what being governor entailed. A core duty is looking out for people when they most need help after a disaster. Branstad’s skill, and the skill of local officials, too, was on display in the summer of 1993 in the hours after one of the biggest natural disasters to hit Des Moines. Unfortunately, last week’s devastating storm through Iowa’s midsection showed that today’s state and local government leaders lack some of those instincts Branstad used effectively. Early in the morning of July 11, 1993, three days after torrential storms dumped 8 to 10 inches of rain northwest of Des Moines, the Raccoon River carried that water over the top of the levee surrounding the city’s water treatment plant.
In 2008, residents of Iowa waited a day for a major disaster declaration when an EF-5 tornado struck Parkersburg. That twister cut through Black Hawk and Butler counties, killed nine people and injured dozens. It destroyed nearly 200 homes, totaling several millions of dollars in damages.
President George W. Bush granted then-Gov. Chet Culver’s disaster declaration request within 24 hours. Culver used a provision in the federal code available to all governors: if a catastrophic event is so severe the state can ask for a waiver to begin the flow of federal help immediately. It’s been a week since the massive derecho storm hit.
Although it’s been around since at least the mid-1990s, telehealth has been slow to catch on before this spring, said Mei Kwong, executive director for the Center for Connected Health Policy. Before COVID, only 19 states’ Medicaid programs covered remote patient visits originating from the home, according to the center’s most recent 50-state survey. Fewer than half covered remote patient monitoring and only 16 reimbursed for store-and-forward care. FIND STATE-BY-STATE PRE-COVID POLICIES
Since March, there have been a flurry of changes to federal and state policies regulating virtual consultations as governors, legislators and insurance commissioners rushed to remove barriers to telehealth. Common changes temporarily expanded the types of providers, services, technologies and locations of telehealth visits covered by state Medicaid rules and eased licensing rules for out-of-state providers during the public health emergency.
WASHINGTON STATE — Emily Groff had never considered telehealth until her abdomen started hurting. Even then, she wasn’t convinced it would help. It was late March, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and shortly after Gov. Jay Inslee ordered the state’s health care providers to stop all in-person non-emergency medical and dental treatment to conserve meager supplies of personal protective equipment – a moratorium that would last for two months. To Groff’s surprise, the doctors did not need to examine her in person to correctly diagnose the problem: Gallstones. “It was a little awkward at first, but I got used to it pretty quickly,” said Groff, 44.
COVID-19 has Iowans wanting more information from federal, state and local governments to guide life-or-death decisions raised by the unprecedented pandemic. Is it safe to go to the store? Do masks prevent spread of the virus? Should my kids go to school in the fall? At a time when Iowans need accurate and complete information, some state agencies, including the Governor’s Office, are ignoring questions from reporters, refusing to do interviews and stalling on public records requests – sometimes for months, Iowa journalists said.