Abt Associates: Bold thinkers driving real-world impact
One of the recommendations of the White House's Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina Report was to create a new program that would provide timely, systematic case management services to disaster victims. Abt Associates worked with the U.S. Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to design this case management program, which was piloted successfully following Hurricane Gustav and is now poised to go into action if a Governor requests disaster case management services from the federal government.
This year, Abt Associates completed the project by developing Standing Operating Procedures for every aspect of the program, ranging from planning to closeout, with special attention to the crucial 72 hours after the disaster hits and during which the program goes into high gear in the affected area.
When the program was tested in 2008 following Hurricane Gustav, Abt Associates partnered with Catholic Charities, which provided the case managers and other support staff. Families received coordinated services to get them rapidly rehoused, and connected to medical care, employment, and other social and human services for up to a year following the incident (and sometimes longer).
"It was extremely challenging on a number of levels, especially during the first week," recalls Project Director Tom Rich. "We were implementing a pilot program, so many of the operational details had to be worked out on the fly. We were also working in a disaster area, which was experiencing widespread power outages and other damage to infrastructure. But it was very rewarding to see a program we designed actually being implemented, especially given that we met our goal of starting the program within 72 hours of activation."
Previously, voluntary and faith-based organizations, such as Catholic Charities and The Salvation Army, had provided case management services during and after disasters using donated funds from individual contributors or, in the case of Katrina, foreign countries. In designing the program, project staff had drawn on the experiences of these organizations after Katrina and also conducted research with numerous Federal, state, local, and non-governmental agencies. The research showed the critical need to have experienced disaster case managers at the disaster site as soon as possible.
Abt Associates designed the new case management program under a contract with the ACF, with support from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration on Developmental Disabilities.
"The National Commission on Children and Disasters has endorsed the ACF disaster case management program and is calling on FEMA to make it permanent," said Rich. "As the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season heads into its final weeks, if one hits and a Governor asks FEMA for case management, our program goes into action. We've accomplished something significant on this project."
Abt Associates is a mission-driven, global leader in research, evaluation and program implementation in the fields of health, social and environmental policy, and international development. Known for its rigorous approach to solving complex challenges, Abt Associates is regularly ranked as one of the top 20 global research firms and one of the top 40 international development innovators. The company has multiple offices in the U.S. and program offices in more than 40 countries.