Two teams of counselors and therapists from AltaPointe Health Systems have begun fanning out across south Mobile County sharing information about free mental health services available to those affected by the oil spill.
“They are going to the schools, they are going door-to-door, they are going to the docks,” said Jessi Robertson, a therapist and oil spill crisis team leader for AltaPointe. “Right now, we are trying to get into the community and make contacts.”
After the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, rates of suicide, domestic violence and divorce soared in areas most affected by the disaster.
Health leaders have been concerned the same is ahead for Gulf Coast communities where generations of families have earned their livings from local waters.
In late August, teams of local and federal experts conducted emergency surveys in Bayou La Batre, Coden and Dauphin Island to determine the spill’s impact on physical and mental health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is due to release survey results in about two weeks, according to Dr. Bernard Eichold, who leads the Mobile County Health Department.
The AltaPointe teams, meanwhile, are spreading the word about free counseling.
“We wanted to be able to get into the communities and actually do some service for them,” Robertson said. “Sometimes, people aren’t as apt to come to us, but they might be needing services to get them through this difficult time.”
Robertson said that the outreach will continue as long as there is a need.