Mitigating the Effects of Disasters

Monday, December 9, 2019


Too often, hurricanes, wildfires, mass shootings, and other major disasters disproportionately affect the health of vulnerable populations. These include individuals with substance use issues, many of whom are particularly susceptible to the impacts of disasters. In a recent piece, Prof. Max Gakh explored different ways in which the law can anticipate and mitigate the challenges faced by individuals with substance use disorders during disasters.

Prof. Gakh contributed to The Dialogue, a publication for disaster behavioral health professionals published by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Disaster Technical Assistance Center. As he observed in his essay, persons with substance abuse issues typically face shortages of care providers, and disasters can greatly exacerbate the problem. By enacting appropriate legal provisions before a disaster strikes, states can expedite the ability of out-of-state health professionals, such as physicians, nurses, and social workers, to practice temporarily in a disaster-stricken state. Prof. Gakh’s discussion emphasizes the close linkage between the needs on a normal day of individuals who face substance use challenges and their needs in the midst of a disaster.