Disaster behavioral health capacity: Findings from a multistate preparedness assessment

Megan Peck, Tai J Mendenhall, Louise Stenberg, Nancy Carlson, Debra K Olson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: To identify gaps in disaster behavioral health, the Preparedness and Emergency Response Learning Center (PERL) at the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health supported the development and implementation of a multistate disaster behavioral health preparedness assessment. Information was gathered regarding worker knowledge of current disaster behavioral health capacity at the state and local level, and perceived disaster behavioral health training needs and preferences. Methods: Between May and July 2015, 143 participants completed a 31-item uniform questionnaire over the telephone by a trained interviewer. Trained interviewers were given uniform instructions on administering the questionnaire. Participants included county- and city-level public health leaders and directors from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota. Findings: Findings demonstrate that across the three states there is a need for improved disaster behavioral health training and response plans for before, during, and after public health emergencies. This study identified perceived gaps in plans and procedures for meeting the disaster behavioral health needs of different at-risk populations, including children, youth, and those with mental illness. There was consistent agreement among participants about the lack of behavioral health coordination between agencies during emergency events. Value: Findings can be used to inform policy and the development of trainings for those involved in disaster behavioral health. Effectively attending to interagency coordination and mutual aid agreements, planning for effective response and care for vulnerable populations, and targeted training will contribute to a more successful public health response to emergency events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-287
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Emergency Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this project was made possible, in part, by Grant/Cooperative Agreement Number 5U90TP000418-05 from CDC to University of Minnesota Simulations, Exercises and Effective Education Preparedness and Emergency Response Learning Center (U-SEEE PERL), Debra Olson, PI. The views expressed in written materials/publications or by speakers and moderators do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the CDC or the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S Government.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Weston Medical Publishing. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2016 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Aftercare
  • Disaster behavioral health
  • Disasters
  • Emergency response
  • Public health preparedness


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