CHP: Trauma Sensitive Response to Storm Victims

Storm-Challenged Psych Patients

Crain’s Health Pulse December 6, 2012


The prospect of helping more than 120 psychiatric patients through Sandy was not on the horizon when Alan Eskenazi became CEO of Holliswood Hospital eight months ago.


But the storm provided a teachable moment: Techniques aimed at helping mentally ill patients cope with past traumas were used to get them through the real-time crisis brought on by the hurricane.


"We treat all our patients as though they have experienced trauma," whether that stressful event was something that happened in military service or whether the patient was abused as a child, said Mr. Eskenazi.


To avoid triggering disturbing memories, "you never startle a patient or walk up behind and tap them on the shoulder, or stand in a way that appears confrontational." That approach was particularly important during Sandy when "any loud sound, like a tree cracking, could be very scary," he said.


Staffers at the 125-bed Jamaica, Queens, hospital worked overtime, and many stayed the night, which helped calm patients. Neighboring hospitals also helped.


When the facility was on the verge of running out of antipsychotic medications, Long Island Jewish, Elmhurst and Jamaica hospitals were able to resupply them.