Background: After disasters that produce extensive damage and community
disruption, many youth experience persisting psychological distress. Current
recommendations are for stepped intervention, including broad resilience building, then
screening and when warranted, evidence-based interventions. Schools are a logical site for
reaching youth but often lack resources and expertise to provide sufficient post-disaster care.
In addition, youth recovery has been shown to be impeded if supporting adults are
overwhelmed by their own post-disaster stress.
Objective: The objective of this project was to demonstrate the effectiveness of a multi-tiered
post-disaster intervention for youth delivered entirely in schools through collaboration of a
major health system and two highly impacted school districts.
Methods: Two years after Superstorm Sandy, a team from the Northwell Health System
implemented a 3-tiered intervention to youth, families and school staff in two school
communities. A broad menu of education and resiliency-building activities was presented to
youth preK to 12 with outreach education and support for teachers and parents. This set the
stage for formal screening and triaging of the youth who were offered on-site evidence-based
treatments (CBITS and TF-CBT) and/or pharmacological consultation.
Results: The resilience building activities were well received and widely utilized. The on-site
interventions were effective in reducing post-disaster distress.
Conclusion: Results support the importance of school/mental health agency partnerships that
provide both resilience building and evidence based trauma interventions in schools in the
aftermath of major disasters.