Planning for mental health service in a post-disaster environment requires knowledge, patience, and, above all, flexibility. Mental health workers will encounter situations that are unique to their profession. They will also have to respond to the networks and authorities that are already established in the area.
It is the responsibility of administrators to provide post-disaster mental health services within the web of government, community, and volunteer agencies that are helping survivors cope after the disaster. Administrators are also responsible for providing methods of information-gathering, communication channels, and a system to establish accountability for all workers.
Delivery of assistance to disaster survivors requires clarity in organizing help, dividing labor, and delegating authority. In the implementation phase of planning a disaster mental health services program, the following issues arise: funding for the project; selection, orientation, and training of staff; and design of administrative and information structures. The mental health planner or project director, with the assistance of a task force, deals with each of these issues as the project progresses. Clear boundaries and responsibilities should be assigned to post-disaster workers - i.e., what they will do themselves and what services should be referred to other agencies.
Programs can either be decentralized or centralized. Decentralized programs often have centers located in affected neighborhoods, with a team assigned the responsibility of servicing that area. In these cases, a team member serves as administrator and supervisor of team activities and also reports to the project's director. Projects with a more centralized structure may have only one facility, but may assign the responsibility for doing outreach work and crisis counseling to contracted teams within a particular geographical area.
Each type of program requires a system for keeping records and collecting information. The program must have procedures to keep accurate records of funds allocated for space, equipment, materials, supplies, and payment of staff. Confidential records are also required to note workers' observations, actions, and progress in helping individuals and families.
As the project progresses, there is a need to evaluate individual and collective performance and to report to authorities on program activities. By reviewing statistical forms, authorities will have an understanding of each worker's activities and will have an overview of the survivors and their problems. The data may be used to make reassignments or to alter program strategies. In addition, this information may be compiled on a regular basis to provide interim reports for the task force, community leaders, and funding agency. Different forms of administrative organization may be instituted in different regions of the world.