August 8, 2007
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Anna Christopher, NPR
   

NPR NEWS DOCUMENTARY REVEALS
MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES AND CRIME
PLAGUING FEMA TRAILER PARK IN SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI;
REPORT AIRS ON ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, AUGUST 8

NPR SCIENCE REPORTER ALIX SPIEGEL EXAMINES PROBLEMS
AT POST-KATRINA FACILITIES; AUDIO TO BE AVAILABLE ON NPR.ORG



August 7, 2007; Washington, D.C. – NPR News Health reporter Alix Spiegel brings an intimate, human perspective to the recently-released study outlining extensive mental health and crime problems at FEMA-run trailer parks for Katrina evacuees in a special half-hour documentary examining one park in Mississippi considered by local law enforcement to be “one of the least troubled.” The report airs Wednesday, August 8 on the newsmagazine All Things Considered and will also be available as free streaming audio later that day on www.NPR.org

Spiegel visits Scenic Trails, a small trailer park about 30 minutes from metro Biloxi, Mississippi, providing housing for 100 families displaced by Katrina. The onetime commercial campground, 30 miles from town, is overwhelmed by crime. The Sheriff’s Office answers calls there six to 10 times weekly. Among the problems are animal killings and abuse, meth and cocaine addiction. Nearly every trailer has been burglarized at least once and power cords are regularly stolen and stripped for copper. Among the residents, drug abuse and depression are common. Several residents bluntly talk to Spiegel about contemplating or attempting suicide since moving there. Notes one, “If it wasn’t a sin, I would have done committed suicide a long time ago. I know it’s a bad thing to say because I’m a parent, but I can’t live like this no more.”

Spiegel’s report reflects the recent International Medical Corps study that found mental health issues are common among Hurricane Katrina victims living in FEMA-run trailer parks, with suicide attempts 79 percent higher than typical rates in the region and depression seven times that of national numbers.

NPR News explores the mounting problem with FEMA officials, church volunteers, law enforcement and mental health professionals. Some say the residents are refusing to help themselves, while others acknowledge the hopelessness of their situations. A representative of the Mississippi FEMA office notes there are no “fair market rent” apartments – rents considered affordable for someone on minimum wage – available in Hancock County, where Scenic Trails is located. Yet a traveling preacher who regularly conducts services at the park tells NPR, “The government’s come in and gave the helping hand. People in the churches surrounding give the helping hand. What’s the problem? The person. All the people that don’t meet society’s standards is in the camps now, and people are seeing it.”

The half-hour report will air Wednesday, August 8 on NPR's afternoon newsmagazine All Things Considered and will be available at www.NPR.org at approximately 7:00PM (ET). For stations and broadcast times, visit www.NPR.org/stations

Spiegel’s report continues NPR’s longstanding commitment to Katrina recovery efforts. NPR News has maintained a bureau in the Gulf Region since the hurricane. In addition to its extensive reporting from the area, NPR programs All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition Saturday, Weekend Edition Sunday, Talk of the Nation and All Things Considered Weekend have broadcast full episodes on-location from the Gulf; All Things Considered later devoted an entire week to live programming from there. NPR’s complete coverage is available at www.npr.org/templates/topics/topic.php?topicId=1093