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Recovering from Ike

September 24, 2008
by Douglas J. Edwards, Editor-in-Chief
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As Hurricane Ike bared down on Texas, The Gulf Coast Center felt his fury.

Headquartered on Galveston Island, the community behavioral health center’s main office was flooded with 15 feet of water (completely submerging the elevators). In just two days, the office’s drug abuse clinic, mental health clinic, day program, HIV program, and other services were moved to The Gulf Coast Center’s mainland office in Texas City, explains Executive Director G. Michael Winburn.

Despite the overwhelming destruction, Winburn is staying in good spirits, explaining, “Your first instinct is to sit down and cry and give up, but you can’t do it,” adding, “You just kind of have to fly by the seat of your pants and adapt every day to whatever the crisis is at that moment.”

To help returning Galveston residents, Gulf Coast Center staff are engaged in what Winburn terms “street psychiatry,” offering counseling services from a bus equipped to be a mobile mental health unit or in settings with a card table and lawn chair. The staff, 10% of whom lost their homes, are being assisted by psychiatry residents from the University of Texas.