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Katrina’s Emotional Aftermath Causing “Soaring” Substance Abuse, Grief, Depression in New Orleans…


Official plans for the commemoration of Hurricane Katrina's one-year anniversary include everything from a New Orleans jazz "funeral" procession led by Lt. Gen. Russel Honore to a concert featuring native sons Wynton Marsalis and Dr. John. There are the expected monument dedications, a series of candlelight vigils and prayer services, wreath-layings by all the members of the city council--as well as the rather more unexpected "Sultans of Swing" Talent Search at Harrah's casino and an Emeril's cooking demonstration for kids. This being New Orleans, there is even a "reunion festival" of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered residents who want to demonstrate their commitment "to helping rebuild the city."

But amidst the sobriety and the hoopla, the state-funded Central City Mental Health Center has chosen a more practical way to mark the anniversary of the nation's biggest natural disaster--one that may well be the most fitting. Free testing for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will be conducted all day on Aug. 29, punctuated by a lunch at which overburdened staff members will reminisce about the tumultuous year that was.

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