Hurricane Florence poses mental health issues for 'years ahead': HHS Secretary

When Hurricane Florence made landfall along the Carolina coast last week, thousands of residents had evacuated from their homes. As they began to return, the remnants of its wrath left many grappling with not only potential life-threatening conditions and diseases, but also possible psychological issues, according to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar.

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Aside from the physical devastation, some studies have linked the impact of exposure to a hurricane to increased symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.  

“The mental health issues are the ones that we’ll be dealing with in the months and even years ahead,” Azar said to FOX Businesses’ Dagen McDowell on Thursday. “That’s where we provide significant support to the state and local authorities there and public health providers for mental health.”

Azar said the HHS department works with The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the government’s substance abuse mental health agency, which aims to reduce the impact of mental illness in America, according to the website.

“We provide significant grants and expertise to them to assist in providing mental health-care services, of course deploy… our health care professionals, with the FEMA emergency response teams that are there on the ground at the shelters able to provide care and counsel as we speak,” he said.

Mental health problems can include a wide-range of conditions that can impact mood, thinking and behavior. Mental and substance abuse disorders are expected to exceed all physical diseases as a major cause of disability worldwide by 2020, according to SAMHSA.