All individuals and communities affected by public health emergencies and disasters have access to and receive the public health, medical and behavioral health services they need to promote and ensure individual and community resilience and national health security.
ABC ensures that the access and functional needs of at-risk individuals, behavioral health, and community resilience are integrated in the public health and medical emergency preparedness, response, and recovery activities of the nation by providing policy leadership, subject matter expertise, and coordination to meet the needs of those most adversely affected by a disaster.
At-risk individuals are people with access and functional needs that may interfere with their ability to access or receive medical care before, during, or after a disaster or emergency. Irrespective of specific diagnosis, status, or label, the term “access and functional needs” are defined as follows:
- Access-based needs: All people must have access to certain resources, such as social services, accommodations, information, transportation, medications to maintain health, and so on.
- Function-based needs: Function-based needs refer to restrictions or limitations an individual may have that requires assistance before, during, and/or after a disaster or public health emergency.
The 2013 Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act defines at-risk individuals as children, older adults, pregnant women, and individuals who may need additional response assistance. Examples of these populations may include but are not limited to individuals with disabilities, individuals who live in institutional settings, individuals from diverse cultures, individuals who have limited English proficiency or are non-English speaking, individuals who are transportation disadvantaged, individuals experiencing homelessness, individuals who have chronic medical disorders, and individuals who have pharmacological dependency.
Disaster behavioral health is the provision of mental health, substance abuse, and stress management services to disaster survivors and responders. Following an emergency event, it is common for individuals and families, as well as disaster responders, to experience distress and anxiety about safety, health, and recovery. Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and other emergencies over the last several years, along with recent research on the impacts of these events, have highlighted the need for disaster behavioral health capabilities. Behavioral health professionals trained in disaster response often work in shelters, medical and psychiatric facilities, or may engage in outreach and educational activities in communities to facilitate the resiliency and recovery of survivors and responders.
The vision for health security described in the National Health Security Strategy (NHSS) is built on a foundation of community resilience: the sustained ability of communities to withstand and recover from adversity. Resilient communities include healthy individuals and families with access to health care, both physical and psychological, and with the knowledge and resources to care for themselves and others in both routine and emergency situations. Enhanced resilience is considered critical to mitigating vulnerabilities, reducing negative health consequences, and rapidly restoring community functioning. ABC works to promote strategies for building individual and community resilience that are inclusive of both behavioral health and the functional needs of at-risk individuals. Such strategies will improve communities’ ability to maximize resources, meet needs, and recover from the adverse health consequences of public health emergencies and disasters at the individual and community levels.