Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Alan Levine wrote to BP America requesting $28.9 million in funding to enhance mental health services through October 2011.

The text of the letter is below:

July 29, 2010

Frank Hernandez
V.P. Government & Public Affairs
BP America Inc.
501 Westlake Park Blvd., WL1 - 25188
Houston, TX 77079

Dear Mr. Hernandez:

This is to follow up on our previous requests for BP's support of our efforts to provide behavioral health services to Louisiana residents impacted by the ongoing disaster off our coast. Pursuant to your request, we have worked with Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to format our plan using the framework SAMHSA and the other coastal states have agreed upon. SAMHSA has agreed our plan "is well thought out, utilizes evidence based standards, and provides a rational and comprehensive approach to addressing the behavioral health needs of the citizens of Louisiana." The plan is enclosed for your review and approval.

Previously, on May 28, we requested $10 million to meet the need for six months, and we followed up on this request June 29. As we pointed out in those requests, counselors on the ground have been reporting increased signs and symptoms of behavioral health instability that experience demonstrates will manifest into more clinically significant behaviors if left untreated. The net result could be a preventable tragedy if we do not work together to ensure we address it head-on.

Research after the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska showed definitively the long-lasting mental health impacts of this type of disaster. Additionally, a study conducted last month by Louisiana State University researchers showed nearly 90 percent of the coastal residents surveyed are worried about the very survival of their communities and "the findings suggest that significant public health resources may be needed to mitigate the pernicious consequences of this disaster for coastal Louisiana residents." Experience from hurricanes Katrina and Rita taught us that these consequences can be mitigated through an aggressive and consistent early response such as those outlined in our enclosed plan. We suspect this is why SAMHSA agrees with the comprehensiveness and appropriateness of our plan.

As requested, this plan goes beyond the six months of our original request and outlines the state's needs through October, 2011, and also contains the separate requests submitted by VOAD-Catholic Charities. We are providing the consolidated request to ensure you have a full picture of the need and comprehensiveness of our coordinated response. Overall, $28.9 million in funding will be used to continue and enhance the work already underway by Louisiana Spirit, the locally governed human services districts and our private, non-profit partners through October, 2011. In order to ensure rapid deployment of the funds in the most accountable manner, we are requesting BP direct funds separately to the state and VOAD-Catholic Charities consistent with our enclosed request.

Kenneth Feinberg has stated that mental health needs will not be covered in the individual claims process he is overseeing. His decision further intensifies the urgency of this request. With no other recourse for these residents, it is incumbent on BP to separately fund local solutions to provide services so desperately needed. Your continued commitment to this effort is crucial.

I presume you can understand our concern that it has been two months since our first request. We are asking for a response no later than August 5, as the funds available for the services we are currently providing will expire. We simply do not think it is appropriate to abandon these families, and we strongly urge you to bring this to resolution.

Please direct any correspondence after Aug. 3 to interim Secretary Anthony Keck.

Alan Levine
Secretary, Department of Health and Hospitals