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5 years after water crisis, 1 in 4 Flint residents suffered from PTSD, study finds

(This story has been updated with comments from the director of the Flint Registry.)

FLINT, MI – One in four Flint residents met the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder and one in five had clinical depression five years after Flint’s water crisis began, according to a new study released Tuesday. September 20.

Researchers from Duke University, Medical University of South Carolina and Boston University reported their findings on JAMA Network Open, concluding that there is a significant unmet need for health services mental here and that this need is unlikely to dissipate without a full response from local, state and federal government agencies.

The study is based on a survey of 1,970 adults who lived in Flint during the water crisis, which was triggered in April 2014 after the city’s water source was replaced by the Flint River. Improperly treated river water was corrosive to lead water lines and household plumbing, resulting in high levels of lead as well as chlorination byproducts and bacteria in city water.

Residents were surveyed from August 2019 to April 2020, according to the study, and Duke University reported that rates of depression and PTSD identified in Flint were three to five times higher than national estimates among all residents. adults – likely the result of both higher baseline rates of mental health problems here as well as a significant increase in problems related to the water crisis.

The Mayo Clinic defines PTSD as a mental health condition that is triggered by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event with symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts at About the event.

“This crisis, with its rapid onset and long duration, the potential for personal and family exposure to toxic substances, and misinformation from trusted leaders, represents a potentially traumatic event capable of precipitating or exacerbating psychiatric disorders, in particularly depression and … PTSD, this can have long-term consequences for the mental health of the community,” the study states.

Almost all – 97.8% – of survey respondents said they felt feelings ranging from worry and sadness to fear and anger in response to water issues in Flint and 41% reported mental or emotional problems related to their concerns about water contamination.

The study is not the first time that mental health issues have been recognized as part of the fallout from the water crisis, but the researchers said their work represents the largest investigation into the mental health of residents. of Flint since the crisis.

In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a public health assessment in Flint to assess behavioral and physical health issues of adults and children as well as their access to behavioral health services.

This report indicates that 66% of households said that one or more adult members reported having had at least one behavioral health problem “more than usual” and 54% of households said that at least one child had had at least one “more than usual” behavioral health problem.

About one in five households reported difficulty accessing behavioral health services in the CDC assessment.

The new study indicates that only 34.8% of survey respondents said they had ever been offered mental health services to help them with psychiatric symptoms related to the water crisis and that nearly 80% of those offered these services used them.

A Genesee Health System spokeswoman said Wednesday (September 21) that the new study aligns with anecdotal and internal agency trends.

“These concerns were one of the reasons we made the bold decision to ask the community for a Mental Health Mileage which gave us flexible funding to address these issues,” said Renée Keswick, Director of Communications and of public relations for GHS, in an email to MLive-The Flint Journal. “Most of the impact of the water crisis has resulted in the need for services that are not reimbursable by Medicaid.

“With the passage of this mileage, we began the development of programs with additional services like the Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center to provide crisis and after-hours services. We will continue to work with the community to resolve these issues and provide high quality and accessible services,” Keswick said.

Nicole Jones, director of the Flint Registry, said the group “also sees concerns about the mental health of adults and children” linked to the water crisis.

“In the first five years, the Flint Registry has enrolled more than 20,000 people and made more than 30,000 referrals to health services. Referrals to adult mental health services and children’s mental and behavioral health services are among the key needs we have identified and addressed,” Jones said in an email to the Journal.

“The results presented…along with the work of the Flint Registry underscore the need to support and build capacity for mental health services in our community,” the statement continued. “This study and our work also underscores the importance of long-term follow-up and support for those affected by the Flint water crisis to mitigate the impact of trauma.”

If people need mental health services, emergency behavioral health care is available 24 hours a day from the GHS by calling 810-496-5500. For all other questions, the agency can be reached at 810-257-3705.

Read more on The Flint Journal:

Jury awards $100,000 to health worker who says Flint’s blood lead data was tampered with

Community service motivated Burton’s first female mayor more than politics

Genesee County set to approve work-from-home plan for some employees

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