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Mental health professionals in Houston are trying to provide emergency services to thousands of people in shelters. The storm has separated people from their medications and exacerbated mental illness symptoms. And NPR's Rebecca Hersher reports the storm's psychological toll is still unfolding.
REBECCA HERSHER, BYLINE: Capriesha Whitley Price's apartment was destroyed by water earlier this week, but one of her main concerns right now is her 60-year-old mother.
CAPRIESHA WHITLEY PRICE: She takes mental health meds. She has really bad anxiety and PTSD.
HERSHER: As the family packs the car to leave for a shelter, Price says she doesn't know what she's going to do to make sure her mom gets her prescriptions filled.
PRICE: She has enough for one week. That's all.
HERSHER: It's something that's on the minds of a lot of people who are spending time at shelters, both volunteers and those who've been displaced. Dr. John Fermo is a physician with the VA. He's been volunteering at the big shelters in Houston, first at the convention center downtown and then at a second 8,000-bed shelter that opened later in the week.
JOHN FERMO: The flood has got me really concerned about my patients running out of their prescriptions of methadone or suboxone. Once they run out of their medications, they may relapse.
HERSHER: Fermo is one of hundreds of medical staff who are volunteering at shelters, writing prescriptions, assessing patients and even giving out some medications. Michael Berry has spent the last four days at the convention center shelter. He's glad that doctors, nurses and social workers are there. He's also happy there's a police presence.
MICHAEL BERRY: It's getting tense right now, people getting agitated.
HERSHER: It's close quarters at the shelter. He and Irving Small saw one man who started having delusions in the middle of the night and started trying to hit people. EMTs were called, and they took the man away on a stretcher.
BERRY: He tried to swing on a officer, and they had to take him down and take him up out of here. I don't know where they took him, but...
IRVING SMALL: That stretcher? Been here all day.
HERSHER: The acute crises are like little fires flaring up. Underneath is a larger wave of psychological problems that mental health experts are concerned about going forward.
EMMA JONES: You guys want some more paper?
UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: Yeah.
JONES: Yeah? I got a lot of colors. You can pick what you want.
HERSHER: Emma Jones is a social worker in Houston. She's sitting on the floor playing with three little kids while their mother goes to change a fourth child's diaper. They were rescued by helicopter from their trailer.
JONES: You know, they've seen a lot of hard things, but they feel safe right now. I think that trauma for them will continue to set in as they realize that, you know, school looks different this year. Home looks different. Our family looks different. So I think it's more of being prepared to provide that long-term response.
HERSHER: That response will need to address everything from PTSD in people who were trapped or injured to depression. For now, Jones says she's just trying to be a safe and friendly face for families who are under a lot of stress. Rebecca Hersher, NPR News.
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