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January 15, 2010

Evaluating Mental Health Needs and Treatment After a Disaster

For reporters covering the earthquake in Haiti, the following Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health faculty are available as potential sources for stories dealing with mental health needs following a disaster. To contact these researchers or inquire about other faculty experts please contact Tim Parsons, director of Public Affairs, at 410-955-7619 or

Judith Bass, PhD, MPH, is an assistant professor in the Department of Mental Health and a faculty member in the Center for Refugee and Disaster Response (CRDR) in the Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is also part of CRDR's Applied Mental Health Research Group (AMHR). Bass’s focus is on developing methods for evaluation of mental health needs in complex situations—including post-disaster and low-resource settings—and evaluating treatment models to meet these needs. She has extensive experience conducting qualitative and quantitative needs assessments, validating assessment tools and evaluating interventions internationally, working with populations affected by war and trauma. Domestically, she recently collaborated with the Memorial Hospital Foundation in Gulfport, Miss., on a Red Cross-funded monitoring program of school-based counseling services for youth affected by Hurricane Katrina. Bass is the author of numerous scientific articles and textbook chapters. She regularly presents at national and international conferences, particularly those related to trauma-affected populations, most recently including the 2009 International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS), and the 2009 International Conference on Urban Health. She recently co-edited a special issue of the Interventions Journal on Mixed Methods for Mental Health Research in Complex Emergencies.

Laura Murray, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and an assistant professor at the Bloomberg School of Public Health in the Department of International Health. She works in the Center for Refugee and Disaster Response and focuses on mental health. Murray has a specialty in evidence-based interventions for children, adolescents and families, particularly in the area of trauma and traumatic grief. Her domestic work has included trauma-focused clinical work, trauma and disaster-related training and supervision, and clinical directorship of a large post 9/11 mental health study in New York City. Internationally, Murray has conducted numerous qualitative needs assessments, has validated mental health assessment tools, and collaborated on the evaluation of interventions in low-resource countries.

Murray is also a part of the AMHR group that uses a validated methodology (both qualitative and quantitative) on the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of programs. This group strives to infuse evidence-based assessments, treatments and evaluations into existing programs by international aid organizations. Murray’s current focus is on examining the implementation of a trauma-focused evidence-based treatment in Zambia and Cambodia. She works closely with local organizations and populations to train on treatment models and appropriately adapt them for the culture and setting.

Paul Bolton, MBBS, MPH, in an associate scientist in the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Department of International Health and with the Center for Refugee and Disaster Response. His main areas of expertise are in the use of applied research methods, both qualitative and quantitative. Bolton and colleagues in the AMHR group apply these methods to conduct needs assessments and design interventions most likely to be locally feasible and effective, and evaluate their impact. All work is done in collaboration with service providers, usually local and international NGOs. Originally, Dr. Bolton focused on using this approach to inform programs dealing with physical health, including infectious diseases. More recently, his focus has been on mental health and psychosocial programs in North America, Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, Central and Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, and the Middle East. Much of this work has been with refugees and internally displaced persons during the disaster post-emergency phase, and with other persons affected by violence and deprivation living in difficult circumstances. In the course of his work on program evaluation, Bolton has conducted randomized controlled trials on interventions in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

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