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BP Says It Will Spend $52 Million for Mental Health Care in the Gulf Region

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A man wades in from the ocean near a pool of dispersed oil on a recently reopened public beach in Grand Isle, La. BP announced Monday that it would spend $52 million for mental health care in the Gulf region. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

In what appears to be its first nod to the mental health challenges from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, BP announced today it will provide $52 million in funding for one federal and four state agencies to provide support and outreach services for mental health programs in the Gulf.

“We appreciate that there is a great deal of stress and anxiety across the region and as part of our determination to make things right for the people of the region, we are providing this assistance now to help make sure individuals who need help know where to turn,” said Lamar McKay, president of BP America, in a statement today.

The funding is being given as follows:

AMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) - $10 million

Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals - $15 million

Mississippi Department of Mental Health - $12 million

Alabama Department of Mental Health - $12 million

Florida Department of Children and Families - $3 million

BP’s announcement comes after researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health published an early studyof the toll that the spill has had on mental health in the Gulf region [PDF].

According to that study, more than a third of parents living within 10 miles of the Gulf coastline reported that their children had experienced signs of physical or mental illness since the spill. Here’s what one researcher, Dr. Irwin Redlener, told NPRabout that finding:

The medical side included very severe rashes, or coughing or wheezing that was otherwise unexplained - and then a host of psychological consequences, which including depression, difficulty sleeping, and a variety of other problems that these children were expressing.

The study also noted that the oil spill had the most effect on coastal households earning less than $25,000 a year. Those residents were “more likely to think they would have to move … and more likely to report physical and mental health effects among their children.”

As we’ve noted, in the aftermath of the Gulf oil disaster, mental health advocates and state agencies repeatedly called on BP to fund mental health claims or mental health care, but those calls went ignoredfor months.

Kenneth Feinberg, the independent administrator of BP’s claims process (who was appointed by the Obama administration but is, by the way, on BP’s payroll), had earlier testified that mental health claims would probably not be coveredby the $20 billion set aside to pay out damage claims.

I believe it is appropriate that BP pay for mental health. While the Gulf Coast people should take priority folks across America has surely suffered as well. I know that I did. The utter feeling of helplessness affected me. I am Bipolar II and have depression issues. I also have a Neurological condition. At the height of the destruction of the Gulf my depression became acute and it affected my ability to walk as well. Walking for me is an adventure.

BP would garner points if they would make contributions to mental health facilities across America.

The destruction of the Gulf will play out for many decades to come. $52 million certainly does not let them off the hook.

Its a despecable Corporation and as well an industry. Gives one pause to wonder what it will take for we Americans to say enough dependence on oil.  Another disaster is surely to take place.

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