The Dialogue: Low Socioeconomic Status and Disasters


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SAMHSA The Dialogue
Volume 13, Issue 2

Low Socioeconomic Status and Disasters

A person's socioeconomic status (SES) can shape their everyday life due to factors such as education, occupation, and level of income. Those with low SES have comparatively less access to behavioral health resources and professional treatment in the United States. As a result, these people may be more affected during a disaster.

This issue of The Dialogue from SAMHSA's Disaster Technical Assistance Center (DTAC) highlights how the Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program (CCP) and other disaster behavioral health efforts can best serve those living in low SES communities. The authors in this issue relate challenges they encountered and the lessons they learned in building resilience in these communities.

Do you have thoughts or suggestions on how programs can tackle the issues surrounding low SES and disaster preparedness, response, and recovery? Please email them to us at We'll print selected reader comments in a future issue of The Dialogue.

Download the Full Issue [PDF – 1.1 MB]

Issue Highlights

Stick figures standing on a map of Missouri.

A Networked Approach: How Missouri Addresses Residents' Behavioral Health Needs After Disasters

Missouri is among the top 10 states in the country in numbers of natural disasters. Learn about innovative ways the state reaches survivors of all SESs, meets survivors where they are, and fosters partnerships and networks that support its effective behavioral health response to disasters.

A flood in WV.

West Virginia CCP Helps Rural Communities After Thousand-Year Flood

In June 2016, West Virginia experienced severe flooding after already struggling for years with economic downturn, high unemployment, and poverty. Find out how a West Virginia CCP reached and helped low SES individuals and communities affected by the floods.

Kids outside in NJ.

Low Socioeconomic Status Communities in Times of Disaster: Understanding the Challenges

After surviving two major disasters within 2 years, New Jersey's residents were in socioeconomic distress. Learn how the state ensured alignment of its behavioral health response with the overall emergency response, reached out to low SES communities and other special populations, and worked with other organizations to make its response more far-reaching and successful.

Recommended Resources

Preparedness Tip Sheet: Assembling a Cost-Friendly Emergency Supply Kit [PDF - 172 KB]

The Federal Emergency Management Agency developed this tip sheet to help people on tight budgets to put together supply kits for disasters and other emergencies. The tip sheet features ideas for stocking up on items without breaking the bank, as well as links to related resources.

Economic Stress

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network provides information about economic changes and stressors and their effects on parents and other caregivers, communities, and children. Also provided are links to related resources, including guidance on building resilience and a series of fact sheets about coping with difficult economic times.

When Disaster Strikes: Promising Practices—Low-Income Families and Communities

In this 7-page booklet, MDC, an organization based in North Carolina, explains factors and conditions that place low-income people and communities at particular risk in disasters. It then recommends strategies and steps that officials, organizations, and individuals can take to build capacity in low-income communities. Also included are case studies in which organizations helped to increase preparedness in low-income communities and ensure that recovery and rebuilding efforts included people with low incomes.

About The Dialogue

The Dialogue, a quarterly technical assistance journal, is an arena for professionals in the disaster behavioral health field to share information, resources, trends, solutions to problems, and accomplishments.

Reference in this email to any specific commercial products, process, service, manufacturer, or company does not constitute its endorsement or recommendation by SAMHSA. SAMHSA is not responsible for the contents of any "off-site" webpage referenced in this email.

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SAMHSA is a public health agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Its mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities.

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