BP announced Monday 52 million dollars in funding for health groups dealing with stress and depression in four southern US states hit by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster.
“We appreciate that there is a great deal of stress and anxiety across the region,” said Lamar McKay, president of BP America. “We are providing this assistance now to help make sure individuals who need help know where to turn.” A statement from BP said the funding would help residents link up with health care providers in their communities through outreach programs, including a special toll free phone line people can call. “This funding is a start toward helping Floridians who are beginning to feel the stress associated with this disaster,” said Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon.
“We will assess future needs and make requests for necessary funding from BP as necessary.” The US government has compiled a tip sheet on the threat of anxiety for Gulf residents, pointing out symptoms such as frequent crying, being overwhelmed with worry and sadness, and increased alcohol and drug abuse. Ed LeGrand, executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Mental Health, noted many in the region — where the vital fishing, tourism and oil industries have been hit hard — find it difficult to reach out for help. “Many of the individuals affected do not typically take the initiative to seek mental health services,” he said.
“It is vital for us to take a proactive approach. This funding will invest in individuals’ mental health through early intervention which may impact long-term physical and mental health needs.” BP said 10 million dollars will go to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 15 million to Louisiana’s health department, 12 million each to Alabama and Mississippi’s mental health departments and a further three million to Florida’s children and families department.
An April 20 explosion killed 11 workers on the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig. It sank two days later rupturing the Macondo well, which over the next 87 days spewed oil into the Gulf of Mexico in the biggest maritime spill ever. BP eventually sealed the well with cement earlier this month, but not before untold damage was done to the vital industries that are the Gulf region’s lifeblood.
Washington, Aug 16, 2010 (AFP)