Forum Discusses Trauma of Katrina Evacuees in Houston

Damage by Hurricane Katrina extended beyond the coastline. In some cases, the impact of escaping the storm's wrath resulted in exacerbating delicate health conditions or starting unhealthy habits.

Researchers at the University of Houston's Center for Drug and Social Policy Research (CDSPR) examined how disaster-related experiences associated with the hurricane affected changes in substance use and other risky behaviors.

They will present their findings at a community forum co-sponsored by the Office of the Mayor and the city's Health and Environmental Services department. The event is planned for 11 a.m., Thursday, Nov. 19 in the Mayor's Conference Room in the basement of Houston City Hall.

"The drug and sexual risk behaviors and risk networks associated with substance use and abuse after natural disasters can have serious consequences for the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV," said Professor Avelardo Valdez, director of the CDSPR. "Our hope with this forum is to discuss ways entities like city governments can better prepare for disasters and the negative health consequences."

The research was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health, and examined 350 African-American evacuees who relocated to Houston.

Among the topics the forum will address:

  • Evacuation experiences
  • Substance use
  • Physical and mental health status of evacuees
  • Disaster related services for this population

"This is real-world research that we anticipate can have an impact on the people who need services and the cities and institutions that provide them," Valdez said.

For more information on the study, visit

For more information on the Center for Drug and Social Policy Research, visit

WHO: UH Center for Drug and Social Policy Research

WHAT: "Substance Use and Other Health Consequences Among Hurricane Katrina Evacuees in Houston: A Community Forum"

WHEN:11 a.m. to noon, Thursday, Nov. 19

WHERE: The Mayor's Conference Room, basement level of Houston City Hall, 901 Bagby St, 77002